The Association between Literacy and Work Performance as Mediated by Depression

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Approximately 90 million Americans are functionally illiterate, meaning that they cannot accomplish basic tasks such as interpreting a bus schedule or filling in an order form (Lincoln et al., 2008). Low levels of literacy have been associated with poor health outcomes, including anxiety and depression, in addition to poor work performance. This study examined the possible mediating role of depression in the association between literacy and work performance, using a nationally representative sample of young adults from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth - 1997. The results indicated that after controlling for race and gender there was a significant association between emotional distress and the degree to which emotional problems limited work performance. The trend toward an association between literacy and the degree to which emotional distress affects work did not hold once race and sex were controlled. Suggestions are provided for future research that can more thoroughly test the effects of literacy on work performance.