Self-Rated Health Across Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration Status for US Adolescents and Young Adults



      Health disparities research seeks to understand and eliminate differences in health based on social status. Self-rated health is often used to document health disparities across racial/ethnic and immigrant groups, yet its validity for such comparative research has not been established. To be useful in disparities research, self-rated health must measure the same construct in all groups, that is, a given level of self-rated health should reflect the same level of mental and physical health in each group. This study asks, Is the relationship between self-rated health and four indicators of health status—body mass index, chronic conditions, functional limitations, and depressive symptoms—similar for adolescents and young adults of different races/ethnicities and immigrant generations?


      Ordinary least squares regression was used to examine associations of self-rated health with the four indicators of health status both cross-sectionally and longitudinally using four waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.


      Health indicators explained similar amounts of variance in self-rated health for all racial/ethnic and immigrant generation groups. The cross-sectional association between the health indicators and self-rated health did not vary across groups. The longitudinal association between depressive symptoms and chronic conditions and self-rated health also did not differ across groups. However, an increase in body mass index was associated more negatively with later self-rated health for Asians than for whites or blacks.


      Self-rated health is valid for disparities research in large, population-based surveys of US adolescents and young adults. In many of these surveys self-rated health is the only measure of health.


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