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Emerg Med Australas. 2007 Jun;19(3):196-202.

Self-rated health in the unwell elderly presenting to the emergency department.

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  • 1The Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



Self-rated health (SRH) has been shown to be a reliable predictor of functional decline and mortality. These studies, however, have largely focused on well community-dwelling elderly. We assessed whether the predictive value of SRH would still be valid for the acutely unwell older person presenting to the ED.


The present study was a secondary analysis of data obtained from the Discharge of Elderly from Emergency Department (DEED II) study. The sample consisted of 741 older people sent home from an ED. On enrollment, patients were asked the SRH question, 'In general, would you say your health is excellent, very good, good, fair or poor?' Phone interviews were conducted at 3, 6, 12 and 18 months. Functional status was assessed using the Barthel index of activities of daily living (ADL), modified instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) and the Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire (MSQ).


An SRH of fair/poor produced a hazard ratio of 3.1 (95% confidence interval 1.3-7.2, P = 0.010) for predicting mortality after controlling for confounders. The rate of decline in ADL and IADL (but not MSQ) over time was also more pronounced for those with an SRH of fair/poor (P < 0.001 for both ADL and IADL). An SRH of fair/poor had a relative risk of 3.4 for predicting decline in ADL at 18 months (95% confidence interval 1.7-7.1, P = 0.001). The effects of SRH on IADL and MSQ were not statistically significant.


The ability of SRH to predict functional decline and mortality persists for the acutely unwell elderly presenting to the ED. SRH is a simple and valuable tool to assess the elderly in the ED and to identify high-risk patients who would benefit from comprehensive geriatric assessment aimed at delaying such outcomes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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