Feeling Better? Trends in General Health Status

Linda G. Martin, Institute of Medicine, The National Academies
Robert Schoeni, University of Michigan
Vicki A. Freedman, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Patricia Andreski, University of Michigan

Using data from the 1982-2003 National Health Interview Surveys, we determine if recent improvements in old-age disability have been mirrored in changes in self-reported general health status (GHS); if GHS trends are similar for younger and older adults; and if changes in GHS among older Americans have been uniform across demographic/socioeconomic groups. For those 70 plus, there has been a decline in the proportion reporting poor/fair health that is similar in magnitude to the decline in disability (roughly 2 percent a year). People 18 to 29 and 45 plus also have been reporting less poor/fair health, while there has been no significant change for those 30 to 44. Some subgroups of the 70 plus population have not experienced the progress of the broader older population. Those 85 plus have seen no improvement and those with less education and lower income have not gained as rapidly as more advantaged groups.

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Presented in Session 28: Socioeconomic Differentials in Health and Mortality