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.
- Health literacy
- Health-related quality of life