60-Second Science

Self-Rated Health Predicts Mortality

Those who rated their health negatively were more likely to have died 30 years later. Sophie Bushwick reports

How healthy are you? Your best guess might be pretty accurate: Researchers found that people who gave their health a positive rating were less likely to fall ill or die over the next 30 years than were those who thought they weren’t as healthy. The work is in the journal Public Library of Science ONE. [Matthias Bopp et al., "Health Risk or Resource? Gradual and Independent Association between Self-Rated Health and Mortality Persists over 30 Years"]

More than 8,000 Swiss men and women rated their health on a scale ranging from very poor to excellent. Researchers tracked them 30 years later. Within the same age group, men who rated their health as “very poor” were greater than three times more likely to have died than were those who rated their health as “excellent.” For women, the odds almost doubled.

Nor was this trend limited to the extremes. The chances of dying went up from the “excellent” health group to the “good” one to the “fair” one, and kept increasing up to the “very poor” group.

And even after researchers took into account risk factors like smoking and medical history, the correlation between self-rated health and mortality remained. Maybe optimism also helps keep the doctor away.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] 

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