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Whiners and deniers – What does self-rated health measure?

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  • Layes, Audrey
  • Asada, Yukiko
  • Kephart, George

Abstract

Self-rated health is a widely used measure of health typically obtained from a question, “How do you rate your health?” Despite the measure’s popularity, debates continue as to what exactly self-rated health captures. This study augments the rich literature on the construct of self-rated health using a unique measurement approach. We conceptualize self-rated health as consisting of two components: latent health and reporting behaviour. We operationalize a preference-standardized health-related quality of life as a measure of latent health, and its systematic deviation from self-rated health as a measure of reporting behaviour. Using the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey, we assess comparatively how the deviations between self-rated health and latent health, measured by the Health Utilities Index Mark 3, vary systematically by demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural factors. We present reporting behaviour by these factors in terms of pessimism and optimism relative to the assessment of the average Canadian. Our analysis shows reporting behaviour statistically and clinically significantly varies by age and socioeconomic status: those aged 80+ years and those with less income and education exhibit optimism about their health. In addition, our analysis indicates a tendency for persons with healthier lifestyles to be slightly pessimistic about their health. Our results imply that it may be misleading to take self-rated health at face value as a measure of health status for applications where preferences should be standardized. For this popular measure to continue to play an important role in population health research and policy development, its users must acknowledge and understand the determinants of self-rated health, including reporting behaviour.

Suggested Citation

  • Layes, Audrey & Asada, Yukiko & Kephart, George, 2012. "Whiners and deniers – What does self-rated health measure?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-9.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:1:p:1-9
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.10.030
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:191:y:2017:i:c:p:9-18 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Maria Gheorghe & Werner Brouwer & Pieter Baal, 2015. "Did the health of the Dutch population improve between 2001 and 2008? Investigating age- and gender-specific trends in quality of life," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 16(8), pages 801-811, November.
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:190:y:2017:i:c:p:67-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Anna Zajacova & Katrina Walsemann & Jennifer Dowd, 2015. "The Long Arm of Adolescent Health Among Men and Women: Does Attained Status Explain Its Association with Mid-Adulthood Health?," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(1), pages 19-48, February.
    5. Hamideh Maleksaeidi & Ezatollah Karami & Gholam Hossein Zamani & Kourosh Rezaei-Moghaddam & Dariush Hayati & Masoud Masoudi, 2016. "Discovering and characterizing farm households’ resilience under water scarcity," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 499-525, April.
    6. Au, Nicole & Johnston, David W., 2014. "Self-assessed health: What does it mean and what does it hide?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 21-28.
    7. Alice Sanwald & Engelbert Theurl, 2014. "Atypical Employment and Health: A Meta-Analysis," Working Papers 2014-15, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.

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