Objectives: This study tested the hypothesis, from North American findings, that global self-ratings of health predict survival for older Australians.
Methods: A stratified sample of Australians 60 years of age and older surveyed in 1981 was resurveyed in 1988. Cox proportional hazard general linear models were constructed separately for men and women to predict survival over 7 years.
Results: Better self-ratings of health had an incremental association with survival for women, but only men with poor ratings had significantly worse survival than others. After major illnesses, comorbidities, disability, depression, and social support were controlled for, poor ratings of health for both men and women were not significantly different from excellent ratings in predicting survival. Only women's good and fair health ratings remained significant predictors.
Conclusions: People rate their health as poor on the objective basis of illness and disability. Australian findings show gender differences relative to North American results; methodological differences and site and gender variability in health profiles are discussed as reasons for the varying results.