Social and cultural meanings of self-rated health: Arab immigrants in the United States

Qual Health Res. 2010 Sep;20(9):1229-40. doi: 10.1177/1049732310371104. Epub 2010 May 12.


Self-rated health (SRH) is used as an outcome measure in a vast number of epidemiologic studies, yet conceptual research into what the variable captures among diverse ethnic and immigrant groups remains limited. Utilizing data from 46 in-depth interviews among adult Arab immigrants in the United States, we examined the general criteria used to explain an SRH selection and the culturally embedded rationales individuals employ to construct meanings of health. Our findings showed that SRH is determined by two main criteria: presence/absence of health conditions and psychological well-being. In-depth analyses further revealed that Arab immigrants employ culturally embedded rationales to move away from extremes and project a view of good health as a state of balance and poor health as a state of imbalance. Our study adds to the limited conceptual knowledge on the meanings of subjective health evaluations among immigrants, and the findings suggest that exploring rationales provides richer information than focusing on criteria alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arabs*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Environment*
  • United States