Objectives: We investigated associations between various dimensions of women's status and self-rated health. We hypothesized that women living in states with lower levels of women's status would be at greater risk of reporting poor health than women living in states with higher levels of women's status, even when controlling for individual and state characteristics.
Methods: We used individual self-rated health and sociodemographic characteristics for 87 848 female respondents to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2000. Women's status indices and indicators were obtained from the Status of Women in the States 2000. State median income and income inequality were included as state-level contextual variables. We examined data using a multilevel logistic regression method.
Results: Women living in states scoring in the lowest quintile on women's political and economic indices (political participation, employment and earnings, and economic autonomy) were more likely to report poor health, odds ratio (OR) 1.14 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01, 1.28), OR 1.29 (CI 1.08,1.55); OR 1.30 (CI 1.09, 1.56), respectively, after controlling for individual characteristics and other state-level variables than were women living in the highest-performing 20% of states.
Conclusions: The status of women at the state level has an independent association with the risk of reporting poor health over and above women's individual characteristics. This finding suggests a contextual effect of women's societal status on health status.