Comprehension of Medical Information in Elderly Migrant Filipino Americans

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  • Title: Comprehension of Medical Information in Elderly Migrant Filipino Americans: Does Culture Matter?
  • Author(s): Tricia Olea Santos, Hanna Ulatowska
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Aging & Social Change
  • Journal Title: The Journal of Aging and Social Change
  • Keywords: Elderly, Filipino Americans, Medical Information, Comprehension, Narrative Text, Expository Text, Health Communications
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2576-5310 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2576-5329 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Olea Santos, Tricia, and Hanna Ulatowska. 2018. "Comprehension of Medical Information in Elderly Migrant Filipino Americans: Does Culture Matter?." The Journal of Aging and Social Change 8 (1): 79-90. doi:10.18848/2576-5310/CGP/v08i01/79-90.
  • Extent: 12 pages


Information structure plays an important role in the comprehension of medical information by the culturally diverse elderly. Narrative and expository texts are two common types of information structure used to convey medical conditions. Narrative texts are typically illustrated as illness stories, and expository texts are represented as systematic explanations of symptoms, risk factors, and treatment of medical conditions. These two structures are typically found in commercials and patient brochures. This study investigates the relationship between the structure of medical information and the amount of medical information recalled by elderly Filipino Americans. In this within-subjects design, thirty-five elderly adults aged sixty-five and older were provided medical information in the form of narrative and expository texts. Participants were tasked with recalling medical information pertinent to sudden-onset and non-sudden-onset conditions. All participants consistently recalled more information when presented with narrative as opposed to expository texts. There was a small correlation between information recall and acculturation levels. Results are attributed to the inherent structure of narratives and its relation to aging, as well as sociocultural factors. Narratives have an inherent temporal-causal structure that provides redundant contextual cues to better facilitate information recall, particularly for less familiar, technical medical information. From a sociocultural perspective, narratives are ecologically salient and commonly used by this ethnic group. This study suggests that illness narratives may be a more familiar, ecological means of exchanging medical information among elderly people from collectivistic cultures.