Traditional Self-Rated Health Questions Not As Reliable in Blacks and in Whites

Shervin Assari, MD, MPH Postdoctoral Research Fellow Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health (CRECH) Department of Health Behavior and Health Education University of Michigan School of Public Health University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI

Dr. Shervin Assari

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Shervin Assari, MD, MPH
Faculty, research investigator
Department of Psychiatry and
Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health
University of Michigan School of Public Health
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Assari: Literature has consistently shown that a single question that asks individuals to rate their health strongly predicts risk of mortality net of traditional risk factors. Our study shows that self rated health that very well predicts risk of death over a 25 year for Whites does not have any predictive value for Blacks. The results are important because Blacks have a worse self rated health and also shorter life expectancy in the United States, but those 2 health problems have weaker link among Blacks as Whites.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Assari: So, clinicians who rely on self-rated health in their evaluations and daily practices may not get the same level of information about long term health of Blacks compared to Whites. Self rated health may not reflect the same aspects of health of Blacks and Whites. So, this single item may mean different things for Blacks and Whites.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Assari: Most of the scientific literature in the United States comes from studies that have mostly enrolled Whites. This is a simple example of one size does not fit all, and we should not assume predictors and risk factors operate similarly among population groups. As the life experiences and life conditions are very different from Blacks and Whites, we should compare Blacks and Whites for the effect of every single risk factors on health. Researchers may find some risk factors to be more detrimental for Blacks or vice versa. The assumptions derived from studies with White samples do not necessarily replicate among Blacks and other minority groups. Racial health disparities are a complex issue, and complex interactions between multiple risk factors should be examined across populations.

Citation:

Black White Difference in Long Term Predictive Power of Self-Rated Health on All-Cause Mortality in United States

Assari, Shervin et al. Annals of Epidemiology

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2015.11.006

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Shervin Assari, MD, MPH (2015). Traditional Self-Rated Health Questions Not As Reliable in Blacks and in Whites