Background: Self-rated health has elicited special interest, in the wake of a number of studies demonstrating that it is a powerful predictor of future mortality, mare so for men than for women. The association between self-rated health and biological correlates also appears to differ between men and women, for reasons unknown.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine gender differences in the interpretation and/or valuation of health-related information by comparing men and women's association of abroad array of perceived health determinants with their statements about health.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in a randomly selected population of 8200 men and women aged >17 years in Stockholm, Sweden. Subjects received a 120-item questionnaire that included measures of health care utilization, lifestyle, demographics, psychosocial factors, and mental, functional, and physical health.
Results: Among the 5470 people who responded to the questionnaire, most of the 42 potential correlates (41 for men, 40 for women) were significantly correlated to self-rated health. The overall association pattern was surprisingly similar for men and women. However, some small differences appeared: educational level, physical activity, and cultural activities played a more crucial role when men judged their health, whereas satisfaction with sleep and doctor visits played a more crucial role when women judged their health. These results were also for the most part confirmed in regression analyses that included all variables. The correlates explained 50% of the variance in self-rated health for both men and women.
Conclusions: Our results highlight the necessity of taking a broad perspective on potential correlates when analyzing mechanisms of self-rated health. When judging their own health, men and women appear to consider approximately the same broad array of factors. The similarities in association patterns indicate that men and women interpret and/or value health-related factors similarly when making statements about health. These results may influence the medical profession's acceptance or consideration of self-rated health. Understanding the gender-specific mechanisms involved in the assessment of self-rated health may contribute to the promotion of health-protective behavior and health intervention practices.