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.