Low education level can significantly impair functional recovery in older adults after a hospital stay, Yale researchers report in the November 1 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.
The level of education completed, a marker of socioeconomic status, is known to be associated with poor health. Persons with low education have higher rates of mortality, serious illness, disability, and have poorer quality of life. The authors say reasons for poor health among these persons may have to do with higher levels of hostility and hopelessness and being ill equipped to maintain health.
"The effect of educational level on recovery from illness has not previously been well-examined," said first author Sarwat I. Chaudhry, M.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. "Older adults have less physical and psychological reserve to recover, so it is especially important for clinicians to consider level of education and other markers of socioeconomic status as factors influencing successful recovery when caring for older, hospitalized patients."
Chaudhry and colleagues followed 862 patients age 70 or older for six months after hospitalization. The patients were divided into either a low education group (less than a high school education), or a high education group (high school diploma and higher). Overall, 41 percent experienced poor functional recovery, 124 died, and 227 experienced declines in activities of daily living. In the low education group, 17 percent died as compared to 12 percent in the high education group.