Gender differences in processing information for making self-assessments of health

Yael Benyamini, Elaine A. Leventhal, Howard Leventhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: This study proposes that women's greater inclusiveness of various sources of information when making self-assessed health (SAH) judgments accounts for the finding that SAH is a weaker predictor of mortality in women than in men. Methods: Data from a sample of 830 elderly residents of a retirement community and a 5-year mortality follow-up study were used to examine the bases for women's and men's reports of negative affect (NA) and judgments of SAH. The degree to which each health-related measure accounts for the SAH-mortality association in each gender group was examined. Results: The findings support two possible explanations for the lower accuracy of SAH as a predictor of mortality among women: 1) In both men and women, NA is associated with poorer SAH, but in men, NA is more closely linked to serious disease in conjunction with other negative life events, whereas in women, NA reflects a wider range of factors not specific to serious disease. 2) Men's SAH judgments reflect mainly serious, life- threatening disease (eg, heart disease), whereas women's SAH judgments reflect both life-threatening and non-life-threatening disease (eg, joint diseases). Conclusions: Women's SAH judgments and NAs are based on a wider range of health-related and non-health-related factors than are men's. This difference can explain gender differences in the accuracy of SAH judgments and may be related to other documented differences in women's physical and mental health and illness behavior. The findings emphasize the need to study the bases of NA and other self-evaluations separately for women and men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-364
Number of pages11
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Volume62
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology

Keywords

  • Attitude toward health
  • Gender differences
  • Mortality
  • Negative affect
  • Physical functioning
  • Self-assessments of health

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