Psychometric characteristics of two health measures in relation to older adults' cognitive function: a secondary analysis

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Kang, Jeonghee

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The older population of the U.S. and the world is growing rapidly, and these large numbers will represent a major challenge for society in general and the health care system in particular. Deteriorating health and cognitive function are the two primary concerns faced by older adults. Therefore, it is important to understand how these two concerns are related to in the elderly aged 65 or older. This secondary analysis has two purposes. The first is to investigate the relationship between older adults’ health status and cognitive function. The second is to examine the psychometric characteristics of two health measures in relation to older adults’ cognitive function. Health status was measured with the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36-item Health Survey (SF-36) and the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 12- item Health Survey (SF-12). Cognitive function was evaluated in three domains of cognition, memory performance, and metamemory. Cognition was measured with the Mini-Mental State Examination, and memory performance was tested with the Rivermead Behavioural Memory Test. Metamemory was measured with the seven subscales of the Metamemory in Adulthood questionnaire. Criteria for study participants were that they be 65 years old or older, Caucasian or African-American, able to read and speak English as a primary language, and without cognitive impairment. A total of 231 subjects participated in the study. The sample consisted of 70% females and 30% males, and almost half of the subjects in the sample were African-Americans. Participants’ age ranged from 66 to 97 (M = 77.72, SD = 6.42), and level of education ranged from 3 to 25 years (M = 12.22, SD = 3.44). Older participants tended to have lower scores on the summary measures of physical health, cognition, memory performance, and Change (worsening). Participants’ education was moderately correlated with everyday memory performance, Task, and Strategy. The findings indicate that some aspects of health status are modestly associated with older adults’ cognitive function. In addition, the findings suggest that SF-12 evaluated the health status and the cognitive function of the study sample as well as SF-36. Discussions of the findings, limitations, and recommendations are presented.