Worsening Trends in Adult Health-Related Quality of Life and Self-Rated health-United States, 1993-2001

Public Health Rep. Sep-Oct 2004;119(5):493-505. doi: 10.1016/j.phr.2004.07.007.


Objectives: Health-related quality of life and self-rated health complement mortality and morbidity as measures used in tracking changes and disparities in population health. The objectives of this study were to determine whether and how health-related quality of life and self-rated health changed overall in U.S. adults and in specific sociodemographic and geographic groups from 1993 through 2001.

Methods: The authors analyzed data from annual cross-sectional Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys of 1.2 million adults from randomly selected households with telephones in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Results: Mean physically and mentally unhealthy days and activity limitation days remained constant early in the study period but increased later on. Mean unhealthy days increased about 14% during the study period. The percentage with fair or poor self-rated health increased from 13.4% in 1993 to 15.5% in 2001. Health-related quality of life and self-rated health worsened in most demographic groups, especially adults 45-54 years old, high school graduates without further education, and those with annual household incomes less than $50,000. However, adults 65 years old or older and people identified as non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander reported stable or improving health-related quality of life and self-rated health. In 18 of the states and the District of Columbia, mean unhealthy days increased, while only North Dakota reported a decrease.

Conclusion: Population tracking of adult health-related quality of life and self-rated health identified worsening trends overall and for many groups, suggesting that the nation's overall health goals as identified in the Healthy People planning process are not being met.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Self Concept
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology