Open Access Open Badges Research article

Self-rated health and its determinants among adults in Syria: a model from the Middle East

Taghrid Asfar1*, Balsam Ahmad2, Samer Rastam1, Tanja P Mulloli2, Kenneth D Ward13 and Wasim Maziak134

Author Affiliations

1 Syrian Centre for Tobacco Studies, Aleppo, Syria

2 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

3 Department of Health and Sport Sciences, and Center for Community Health, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA

4 Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University Clinic Muenster, Muenster, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:177  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-177

Published: 25 July 2007



Self-rated health (SRH) has been widely used to research health inequalities in developed western societies, but few such studies are available in developing countries. Similar to many Arab societies, little research has been conducted in Syria on the health status of its citizens, particularly in regards to SRH. This Study aims to investigate and compare determinants of SRH in adult men and women in Aleppo, Syria.


A cross-sectional survey of adults 18 to 65 years old residing in Aleppo (2,500,000 inhabitants), Syria was carried out in 2004, involving 2038 household representatives (45.2% men, age range 18–65 years, response rate 86%). SRH was categorized as excellent, normal, and poor. Odds ratios for poor and normal SRH, compared to excellent, were calculated separately for men and women using logistic regression.


Women were more likely than men to describe their health as poor. Men and women were more likely to report poor SRH if they were older, reported two or more chronic health problems, or had high self perceived functional disability. Important gender-specific determinants of poor SRH included being married, low socioeconomic status, and not having social support for women, and smoking, low physical activity for men.


Women were more likely than men to describe their health as poor. The link with age and pre-existing chronic conditions seems universal and likely reflects natural aging process. Determinants of SRH differed between men and women, possibly highlighting underlying cultural norms and gender roles in the society. Understanding the local context of SRH and its determinants within the prevailing culture will be important to tailor intervention programs aimed at improving health of the Syrian and similar Arab societies.