Objectives: Although self-rated health (SRH) is recognized as a strong and consistent predictor of mortality and functional health decline, there are relatively few studies examining SRH as a predictor of morbidity. This study examines the capacity of SRH to predict the onset of chronic disease among the late midlife population (ages 51-61 years).
Method: Utilizing the first 9 waves (1992-2008) of the Health and Retirement Study, event history analysis was used to estimate the effect of SRH on incidence of 6 major chronic diseases (coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, lung disease, arthritis, and cancer) among those who reported none of these conditions at baseline (N = 4,770).
Results: SRH was a significant predictor of onset of any chronic condition and all specific chronic conditions excluding cancer. The effect was particularly pronounced for stroke.
Discussion: This research provides the strongest and most comprehensive evidence to date of the relationship between SRH and incident morbidity.