Background: Self-rated health is a useful indicator of the population's health. Yet follow-up studies on perceived health trends are scarce. The aim of this paper is to assess perceived health trends in Finland between 1972 and 1992.
Methods: Five cross-sectional studies were done in two areas in eastern Finland every 5th year since 1972 and in a third area in southwestern Finland since 1982. The total number of respondents was 33,962. The respondents filled in a questionnaire, followed by a health examination. The subjects were categorized by age, education, and household income.
Results: In 1972, one-third of the population reported good health, whereas in 1992 the rates were 50 and 60% for men and women, respectively. Younger persons reported better general health than older persons. High education and high household income were undisputed indicators of good health. Among men, their importance as predictors of good health diminished during the 20 years.
Conclusions: Finnish people today not only live longer but also feel healthier. In order to achieve good health for all population groups we need continual efforts to diminish the socioeconomic disparities.