Background: The purpose of this study is to test whether the predictive power of an individual's self-rated health (SRH) on subsequent mortality risk differs by socioeconomic status (SES) in the United States.
Methods: We use the National Health Interview Survey 1986-94 linked to Multiple Cause of Death Files 1986-97 (NHIS-MCD). Analyses are based on non-Hispanic Black and White adults 25 and older (n = 358,388). Cox proportional hazard models are used to estimate the effect of SRH on mortality risk during follow-up. Interactions of SRH and level of education and SRH and level of income are used to assess differences in the predictive power of SRH for subsequent mortality risk.
Results: The effect of SRH on subsequent mortality risk differs by level of education and level of income. Lower health ratings are more strongly associated with mortality for adults with higher education and/or higher income relative to their lower SES counterparts.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that individuals with different education or income levels may evaluate their health differently with respect to the traditional five-point SRH scale, and hence their subjective health ratings may not be directly comparable. These results have important implications for research that tries to quantify and explain socioeconomic inequalities in health based on self-rated health.