Measures of self-reported health status are increasingly used in research and health policy. However, the inherent subjectivity of the responses gives rise to lingering concerns about their utility, especially across national and cultural boundaries. In this study we use religious denomination as a proxy for Scottish ancestry within Northern Ireland and demonstrate significant differences in levels of self-reported ill-health that are not fully reflected in mortality risks. These findings mirror the differences between Scotland and Northern Ireland previously shown in ecological studies and provide more definitive evidence that even within the United Kingdom factors other than morbidity levels influence the perception and reporting of health status. Possible explanations for the dissonance between morbidity and mortality levels are discussed and the reasons for a preference for socio-economic rather than cultural factors are described.
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