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Disabil Health J. 2009 Apr;2(2):49-56. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2008.12.003. Epub 2009 Mar 20.

The dilemma of measuring perceived health status in the context of disability.

Author information

  • 1Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon 97239, USA. gfk2@cdc.gov

Erratum in

  • Disabil Health J. 2009 Jul;2(3):165.



Advances in the conceptual differentiation of health from disability have not been incorporated in popular measures of perceived health status. The inclusion of function in the measurement of health presents a dilemma for researchers assessing the perceived health of people with functional limitations.


The purposes of the present paper are to identify this problem in health measurement, describe its implications for disability and health researchers, and outline potential strategies for future measure development of perceived health status.


Reflecting the International Classification of Function, Disability, and Health, distinctions among the concepts of health, function, and disability are reviewed. Implications of confounded health measurement are discussed in terms of monitoring health status, assessing health disparities, using health as a mediator or moderator of other outcomes, and assessing effectiveness of interventions. The problem of function confounded with health measurement is illustrated with findings using the SF-36 with persons with spinal cord injury.


Recommendations are provided for developing function-neutral measures of perceived health status.


New measures of perceived health status are needed that do not confound function with health.

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