Self-rated health in persons with spinal cord injury: Relationship of secondary conditions, function and health status

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Abstract

Objective

Self-rated health is used frequently as a measure of health in the general population, and increasingly with persons with disabilities. However, its meaning and its relationship with other measures of self-reported health (health status and secondary conditions) are not well understood for this group. The purpose of the present study was to use a conceptual model to examine the structure of self-rated health with persons with spinal cord injuries.

Methods

A US sample of 270 adults with mobility impairment stemming from spinal cord injury (SCI) provided data on three measures of self-reported health that differ in degree of subjectivity: physical problems common to SCI, four domains of health status from the SF-36, and a single item on self-rated health. Data were compared with the norm sample of the SF-36. The conceptual model was tested using path analyses.

Results

SF-36 scores were lower on three of four domains compared with the norm sample. The conceptual model analyses indicated that 35% of variance in self-rated health is accounted for through direct relationship with physical secondary conditions common to persons with SCI and as mediated through SF-36 domains of Role Physical and Vitality. The SF-36 domain of Physical Function was statistically unrelated to self-rated health.

Conclusion

The conceptual model of self-rated health was verified in a sample of persons with SCI. Importantly, the SF-36 domain of Physical Function does not relate to self-rated health for this group. Its inclusion in measures of self-reported for disability populations creates difficulty without apparent benefit.

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