..Analyses included 983 adults (≥65 years old, ≤4 years of schooling) who participated in a longitudinal community aging study. Literacy was self-reported (“Did you ever learn to read or write?”)..
..Illiterate participants were almost 3 times as likely to have dementia at baseline compared to literate participants. Among those who did not have dementia at baseline, illiterate participants were twice as likely to develop dementia. While illiterate participants showed worse memory, language, and visuospatial functioning at baseline than literate participants, literacy was not associated with rate of cognitive decline.
Conclusion We found that illiteracy was independently associated with higher risk of prevalent and incident dementia, but not with a more rapid rate of cognitive decline. The independent effect of illiteracy on dementia risk may be through a lower range of cognitive function, which is closer to diagnostic thresholds for dementia than the range of literate participants.