Emerging evidence suggests that financial and health literacy deteriorates in advanced age. By contrast, wellbeing promotes health in aging. This study tested the hypothesis that wellbeing is associated with slower aging-related literacy decline.
Participants were 1,099 community-based older adults without dementia at baseline. Financial and health literacy was assessed at baseline and annually thereafter via a 32-item measure. Wellbeing was assessed at baseline via the 18-item version of Ryff’s Scales of Psychological Well-Being.
During up to 12 years of annual follow-up, literacy declined about 1 percentage point per year on average (β = -0.91, SE = 0.08, p < .001); however, there was considerable variation in change in literacy between participants (random slopes variance = 1.24, SE = 0.15, p < .001). In a linear mixed-effects model adjusted for age, sex, and education, higher wellbeing was associated with higher starting level of literacy (β = 2.31, SE = 0.67, p = .001) and, critically, slower literacy decline (β = 0.29, SE = 0.11, p = .006). The association of higher wellbeing with slower literacy decline persisted in models that additionally adjusted for income, medical conditions, depressive symptoms, and a robust measure of global cognition.
This study suggests that wellbeing helps stave off aging-related literacy decline.