Open Access Research article

The relationship between self-rated health and objective health status: a population-based study

Shunquan Wu, Rui Wang, Yanfang Zhao, Xiuqiang Ma, Meijing Wu, Xiaoyan Yan and Jia He*

Author Affiliations

Department of Health Statistics, Second Military Medical University, No.800 of XiangYin Road, Shanghai, 200433, China

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:320  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-320

Published: 9 April 2013



Self-rated health (SRH), a subjective assessment of health status, is extensively used in the public health field. However, whether SRH can reflect the objective health status is still debatable. We aim to reveal the relationship between SRH and objective health status in the general population.


We assessed the relationship between SRH and objective health status by examining the prevalence of diseases, laboratory parameters, and some health-related factors in different SRH groups. Data were collected from 18,000 residents randomly sampled from the general population in five cities of China (3,600 in each city). SRH was assessed by a single-item health measure with five options: “very good,” “good,” “fair,” “bad,” and “very bad.” The differences in prevalence of diseases, laboratory parameters, and health-related factors between the “healthy” (very good plus good), “relatively healthy” (fair), and “unhealthy” (bad plus very bad) groups were examined. The odds ratios (ORs) referenced by the healthy group were calculated using logistic regression analysis.


The prevalence of all diseases was associated with poorer SRH. The tendency was more prominent in cardio-cerebral vascular diseases, visual impairment, and mental illnesses with larger ORs. Residents with abnormalities in laboratory parameters tended to have poorer SRH, with ORs ranging from 1.62 (for triglyceride) to 3.48 (for hemoglobin among men) in a comparison of the unhealthy and healthy groups. Most of the health-related factors regarded as risks were associated with poorer SRH. Among them, life and work pressure, poor spiritual status, and poor quality of interpersonal relationships were the most significant factors.


SRH is consistent with objective health status and can serve as a global measure of health status in the general population.

Self-rated health; Health status; Disease prevalence; Laboratory parameters; Health-related factors