Unpacking What Participants Think About When They Rate Their Health

Self-rated health — “Would you say your health in general is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?”— is one of the most widely used measures of health because of its ability to predict morbidity and mortality. Yet it is unclear what underlies health ratings. Researchers at the UWSC and Loyola University analyzed participants’ explanations of how they formulated their health ratings in addition to which health factors they considered using data from cognitive interviews conducted for the Voices Heard Study. The authors report differences across groups in some types of health factors mentioned. They also document various processes through which respondents integrate seemingly disparate health factors to formulate an answer. Finally, they find some evidence of sociodemographic group differences with respect to types of health factors mentioned, valence of health factors, and conditional health statements, highlighting avenues for future research. The study provides a description of how participants rate their general health status and highlights potential differences in these processes across sociodemographic groups, helping to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how SRH functions as a measure of health.

Garbarski, Dana, Jennifer Dykema, Kenneth D. Croes, and Dorothy F. Edwards. 2017. “How Participants Report Their Health Status: Cognitive Interviews of Self-Rated Health Across Race/Ethnicity, Gender, Age, and Educational Attainment.“ BMC Public Health 17:771. (DOI: 10.1186/s12889-017-4761-2; http://rdcu.be/wsyn)