Is poor self-rated health associated with low-grade inflammation in 43,110 late adolescent men of the general population? A cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2016 Apr 25;6(4):e009440. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009440.


Objective: Self-rated health is a powerful predictor of long-term health and mortality, hence the importance of a better understanding of its biological determinants. Previous studies have shown that low-grade inflammation is associated with poor self-rated health in clinical and healthy populations, but the evidence is sparse in men and completely lacking for men in late adolescence. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between low-grade inflammation and self-rated health among conscripts. It was hypothesised that high levels of inflammatory factors would be associated with poor self-rated health.

Design: Data from 49,321 men (18-21 years) conscripted for military service in 1969 and 1970 were used. Inflammation had been measured through erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Self-rated health had been assessed on a five-point scale, and was dichotomised into Good ('Very good'/'Good'/'Fair') versus Poor ('Poor'/'Very poor'). Data from 43,110 conscripts with normal levels of ESR, and who reported self-rated health remained after exclusion of those with ESR <1 and >11 mm/h. Associations were calculated using logistic regression analyses. Adjustments were made for body mass index, socioeconomic position, inflammatory disease, emotion regulation, smoking, risky use of alcohol and physical activity.

Results: High levels of ESR were associated with higher odds for poor self-rated health (OR: 1.077 for each unit mm/h increase in ESR, 95% CI 1.049 to 1.105).

Conclusions: The present study shows for the first time a significant association between a marker of inflammation and self-rated health in late adolescent men, adding to evidence of an association between low-grade inflammation and subjective health perception also in men, as previously demonstrated in women. Further support for inflammation as part of a general psychobiological process that underpins subjective health perception is hereby provided.

Keywords: Epidemiology; IMMUNOLOGY; MENTAL HEALTH.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Sedimentation*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation*
  • Drinking
  • Emotions
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Smoking
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers