Diagnostic labelling influences self-rated health. A prospective cohort study: the HUNT Study, Norway

Fam Pract. 2015 Oct;32(5):492-9. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv065. Epub 2015 Aug 3.


Background: Studies have shown an independent association between poor self-rated health (SRH) and increased mortality. Few studies, however, have investigated any possible impact on SRH of diagnostic labelling.

Objective: To test whether SRH differed in persons with known and unknown hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus (DM) or hypertension, opposed to persons without these conditions, after 11-year follow-up.

Methods: Prospective population-based cohort study in North-Trøndelag County, Norway, HUNT2 (1995-97) to HUNT3 (2006-08). All inhabitants aged 20 years and older were invited. The response rate was 69.5% in HUNT2 and 54.1% in HUNT3. In total, 34144 persons aged 20-70 years were included in the study population. The outcome was poor SRH.

Results: Persons with known disease had an increased odds ratio (OR) to report poor SRH at follow-up; figures ranging from 1.11 (0.68-1.79) to 2.52 (1.46-4.34) (men with hypothyroidism kept out owing to too few numbers). However, in persons not reporting, but having laboratory results indicating these diseases (unknown disease), no corresponding associations with SRH were found. Contrary, the OR for poor SRH in women with unknown hypothyroidism and unknown hypertension was 0.64 (0.38-1.06) and 0.89 (0.79-1.01), respectively.

Conclusions: Awareness opposed to ignorance of hypothyroidism, DM and hypertension seemed to be associated with poor perceived health, suggesting that diagnostic labelling could have a negative effect on SRH. This relationship needs to be tested more thoroughly in future research but should be kept in mind regarding the benefits of early diagnosing of diseases.

Keywords: Cohort; diabetes mellitus; hypertension; hypothyroidism; longitudinal; self-rated health..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology*
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / psychology*
  • Hypothyroidism / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult