Health literacy and ethnic disparities in health-related quality of life among rural women: Results from a Chinese poor minority area

Cuili Wang, Hui Li, Lingui Li, Dongjuan Xu, Robert L Kane, Qingyue Meng

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52 Scopus citations


Background: We examined the relationship between health literacy (HL) and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) as well as relationship differentials by ethnicity among rural women from a Chinese poor minority area.Methods: We conducted in-person interviews with 913 rural women aged 23 - 57 (57.5% Hui minorities/42.5% Han ethnicity) enrolled in the Ningxia Women Health Project, gathering data on EQ-5D, self-designed HL, socio-demographic characteristics, and chronic diseases. The extent of impairments in the five dimensions of the EQ-5D was used to measure HRQoL. Factor analysis yielded a single HL factor, which was used as a dichotomous variable in multivariate log-binomial regression models that examined the adjusted association of HL with HRQoL.Results: Nearly half of the women had no formal education. The most prevalent impairments were pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression (42.42% and 32.09%, respectively). The Hui minorities had 1.65 times higher rates of low HL (defined as less than mean of the factor score for HL) and 1.22 and 1.25 times for pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression impairments, respectively. Low HL was associated with poor HRQoL, with a 23% increase in the prevalence of pain/discomfort impairments after adjusting for socio-demographics. This association was significant in the Hui group (PR=1.30, 95% CI=1.06-1.58) but not for the Han group (PR=0.99, 95% CI=0.76-1.30). HL-stratified analysis revealed modification for ethnic disparities in HRQoL; for pain/discomfort impairments, high HL-PR=0.88 (95% CI=0.71-1.08), low HL-PR=1.24 (95% CI = 1.01-1.52); for anxiety/depression impairments, high HL-PR=0.98 (95% CI=0.73-1.32), low HL-PR=1.44 (95% CI = 1.05-1.98).Conclusions: Low HL is associated with poor HRQoL across the entire sample and the association may be modified by ethnicity. Similarly, ethnic disparities in HRQoL may be modified by HL, larger in low HL group. Health services should address HL in vulnerable minority women to improve their HRQoL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153
JournalHealth and Quality of Life Outcomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 11 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the China Medical Board [09–947]. The authors thank local officials from the Bureau of Health and Education for participating in the project and coordinating the field work. Faculty members and undergraduates and postgraduates from Shandong University and Ningxia Medical University are acknowledged for their work in data collection. We are grateful to Andrea Wysocki, Shri Parashuram, Tetyana Shippee for their comments in preparing the manuscript and to Jeannine Ouellette for her editing at the University of Minnesota.


  • China
  • EQ-5D
  • Equity
  • Health literacy
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Race/ethnicity


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