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SAGE Open Med. 2016 Sep 9;4:2050312116666975. doi: 10.1177/2050312116666975. eCollection 2016.

Gender differences in the predictive role of self-rated health on short-term risk of mortality among older adults.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.



Despite the well-established association between self-rated health and mortality, research findings have been inconsistent regarding how men and women differ on this link. Using a national sample in the United States, this study compared American male and female older adults for the predictive role of baseline self-rated health on the short-term risk of mortality.


This longitudinal study followed 1500 older adults (573 men (38.2%) and 927 women (61.8%)) aged 66 years or older for 3 years from 2001 to 2004. The main predictor of interest was self-rated health, which was measured using a single item in 2001. The outcome was the risk of all-cause mortality during the 3-year follow-up period. Demographic factors (race and age), socio-economic factors (education and marital status), and health behaviors (smoking and drinking) were covariates. Gender was the focal moderator. We ran logistic regression models in the pooled sample and also stratified by gender, with self-rated health treated as either nominal variables, poor compared to other levels (i.e. fair, good, or excellent) or excellent compared to other levels (i.e. good, fair, or poor), or an ordinal variable.


In the pooled sample, baseline self-rated health predicted mortality risk, regardless of how the variable was treated. We found a significant interaction between gender and poor self-rated health, indicating a stronger effect of poor self-rated health on mortality risk for men compared to women. Gender did not interact with excellent self-rated health on mortality.


Perceived poor self-rated health better reflects risk of mortality over a short period of time for older men compared to older women. Clinicians may need to take poor self-rated health of older men very seriously. Future research should test whether the differential predictive validity of self-rated health based on gender is due to a different meaning of poor self-rated health for older men and women and whether poor self-rated health reflects different health statuses based on gender.


Gender; men; mortality; self-rated health; women

Conflict of interest statement

The author(s) declared the following potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: S.A. was supported by the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund and the Richard Tam Foundation at the University of Michigan Depression Center.

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