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Int J Behav Med. 2013 Mar;20(1):140-7. doi: 10.1007/s12529-011-9218-x.

Sense of control and self-reported health in a population-based sample of older Americans: assessment of potential confounding by affect, personality, and social support.

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Intramural Research Program, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



Sense of control has been linked to improved health outcomes, but it is unclear if this association is independent of other psychosocial factors.


The aim of this study is to test the strength of association between sense of control and self-reported health after adjustment for positive and negative affect, "Big 5" personality factors, and social support.


Data on sense of control (measured by personal mastery, perceived constraints, and a health-specific rating of control), affect, personality, social support, and two measures of self-reported health (global rating of fair or poor health and presence of functional limitations) were obtained on 6,891 participants in the Health and Retirement Study, a population-based survey of older Americans. The cross-sectional association between sense of control measures and each measure of self-reported health was tested in hierarchical logistic regression models, before and after adjustment for affect, personality, and social support.


Participants with higher personal mastery were less likely to report fair/poor health (odds ratio 0.76 per 1-point increase) while those with higher perceived constraints were more likely to report fair/poor health (odds ratio 1.37 per 1-point increase). Associations remained after adjustment for affect, but adjustment for affect attenuated the association of personal mastery by 37% and of perceived constraints by 67%. Further adjustment for personality and social support did not alter the strength of association. Findings were similar for the health-specific rating of control, and for associations with functional limitations.


Sense of control is associated with self-reported health in older Americans, but this association is partly confounded by affect.

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