Self-Rated Health Changes and Oldest-Old Mortality

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Abstract

Objectives.

This study explores how 2 measures of self-rated health (SRH) change are related to mortality among oldest-old adults. In doing so, it also considers how associations between SRH and mortality may depend on prior SRH.

Method.

Data come from the Asset and Health Dynamics survey—the oldest-old portion of the Health and Retirement Study—and follow 6,233 individuals across 13 years. I use parametric hazard models to examine relationships between death and 2 measures of short-term SRH change—a computed measure comparing SRH at time t–1 and t, and a respondent-provided retrospectively reported change.

Results.

Respondents who demonstrate or report any SRH change between survey waves died at a greater rate than those with consistent SRH. After controlling for morbidity, individual characteristics, and SRH, those who changed SRH categories between survey waves and those who retrospectively reported an improvement in health continue to have a greater risk of death, when compared with those with no change.

Discussion.

These findings suggest that the well-established associations between SRH status and mortality may understate the risk of death for oldest-old individuals with recent subjective health improvements.

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