Examining the Relationship Between Anemia, Cognitive Function, and Socioeconomic Status in School-Aged Ecuadorian Children
Background and Objectives: It is estimated that over 40% of children in Ecuador are anemic. Anemia in children can influence physical and cognitive development and have lasting effects on adulthood productivity and quality of life. The objectives of this study were to: (1) evaluate the relationship of anemia and cognitive function, and (2) determine the influence of demographic factors on cognitive function. Population and Setting: The sample consisted of 175 school-aged children between 5 to 11 years old attending a school in a poverty stricken area of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Methods: A descriptive correlational cross sectional design was used to study the relationship between the level of anemia and the level of cognitive function. Other demographic factors were evaluated to determine their influence on cognitive function. Data were collected at the school using the Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices to measure cognitive function and the STAT-Site MHgb Meter to measure hemoglobin levels. Results: No significant correlation was found between the level of anemia and cognitive function. Multiple regression analysis of demographic variables and cognitive function found age (Beta=0.56, t=8.6, p=0.000) and income (Beta=0.16, t=2.5, p=0.01) to be significant predictors of cognitive function. Interpretation and Conclusion: Many factors influence cognitive function and development. Additional research is needed to determine the effect of income level and related factors, such as parental time spent with the child doing homework, value placed on education in the home, education level of the parents, and quality of nutrition. Interventions to improve socioeconomic level, enhance parenting styles that foster cognitive development, and improve nutrition should be implemented.