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Self-reported reading and writing skills in elderly who never attended school influence cognitive performances: Results from the coyoacan cohort study



Beyond the well-known effect of educational level on cognitive performances, the present study investigates the specific effect of literacy acquisition independently of education.


A sample of 175 unschooled elderly participants was selected from a larger Mexican population-based cohort study.


The sample of 175 subjects who never went to school was divided in two groups: 109 who never acquired literacy skills and 66 who declared having acquired reading and writing abilities.


Cognitive performances on commonly used tests (Mini mental state examination, Isaacs set test, Free and cued selective reminding test and clock-drawing test) were compared between the two groups taking into account several potentially confounding factors.


The participants with reading and writing skills performed better than their counterparts in most tests, even though no difference was observed for the Isaacs Set Test and the delayed recall of the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test.


Writing and reading skills in elderly people with no formal education influence performances in very commonly used test. Not only educational level but also literacy acquisition should be taken into account when conducting cognitive assessment in very low educated elderly people.

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Correspondence to Hind Mokri.

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Mokri, H., Ávila-Funes, J.A., Le Goff, M. et al. Self-reported reading and writing skills in elderly who never attended school influence cognitive performances: Results from the coyoacan cohort study. J Nutr Health Aging 16, 621–624 (2012).

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Key words

  • Illiteracy
  • reading skills
  • writing skills
  • neuropsychological tests
  • elderly