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Soc Sci Med. 1986;22(11):1195-212.

From sneezes to adieux: stages of health for American men and women.


This article traces health from daily symptoms to death for American (U.S.) men and women in three age groups 17-44, 45-64, 65+. How do leading problems change as our perspective shifts from daily symptoms to annual incidence and prevalence rates of diseases and injuries; then to problems that induce long term limitations; to conditions brought to physicians for care; to diagnoses for hospital stays; and finally to causes of death? We study the top 15 conditions in each of these stages of health. Young adults are bothered most by acute and chronic respiratory diseases, but deaths among them are due to diseases and violent injuries that seldom figure in daily life. Fatal chronic diseases becomes more prevalent in middle ages and spur professional care, but they rarely cause daily symptoms. For older people, life threatening chronic conditions stretch through all stages of health. Arthritis also becomes a dominant facet of symptoms, social limitations and ambulatory care. Men's and women's leading daily symptoms are very similar; so are their leading acute and chronic conditions, limiting conditions, diagnoses for health care and causes of death. What distinguishes the sexes is the rate, not the ranks, of health problems they suffer. We elaborate the iceberg of morbidity metaphor, as a device to highlight stage, age and sex differences in health.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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