The Relationship among Functional Health Literacy, Self-Rated Health, and Social Support among Younger and Older Adults in Ghana

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Aug 31;16(17):3188. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16173188.


It is well established that health literacy positively affects health outcomes, and social support influences this association. What remains unclear is which aspect of social support (instrumental, informational, and emotional support) is responsible for this effect and whether the influence differs from one population group to another. This study addresses these lacunae. It examines the impact each type of support makes on the relation between functional health literacy (FHL) and self-rated health status among younger and older adults in Ghana. Data were pooled from two cross-sectional surveys, together comprising 521 participants in the Ashanti Region. The results indicated that young adults were more likely to possess sufficient FHL and perceive their health more positively than older adults. While FHL was positively associated with health status, the relation was stronger when young adults received a high level of emotional support. Among older persons, informational support substantially moderated the association between FHL and health status. Thus, social support modifies the relations between FHL and health status among younger and older adults in different ways and to different degrees. Therefore, interventions to improve FHL and health amongst younger and older adults should pay due regard to relevant aspects of social support.

Keywords: Ghana; health literacy; health status; older persons; social networks; social support; young and emerging adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Ghana
  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult