The meanings of self-ratings of health: A qualitative and quantitative approach

Ellen L. Idler, Shawna V. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations

Abstract

Self-ratings of health are central measures of health status that predict outcomes such as mortality and declines in functional ability. Qualitative and quantitative data are used to test the hypothesis that definitions of health that are narrowly biomedical are associated with underestimates of self-ratings relative to respondents' medical histories, while definitions that are broad and inclusive are related to relatively better self-ratings. A sample of 159 elderly African Americans rates their health and reports 'what went through your mind.' Analysis of variance shows that respondents who overestimate their health are more likely to report ratings based on social activities and relationships, or psychological, emotional, or spiritual characteristics, rather than biomedical criteria. The authors conclude that inclusive definitions of health facilitate more positive self-ratings of health, given a fixed health status; methodologically, they conclude that this is a promising method for exploring self-ratings of health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-476
Number of pages19
JournalResearch on Aging
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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