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How does self-assessed health change with age? A study of older adults in Japan

Publication Abstract

Liang, Jersey, B.A. Shaw, Neal Krause, J.M. Bennett, K. Kobayashi, T. Fukaya, and Y. Sugihara. 2005. "How does self-assessed health change with age? A study of older adults in Japan." Journals of Gerontology B: Psychological and Social Sciences, 60(4): S224-S232.

Objectives. This research examines how the trajectories of self-rated health evolve among elderly Japanese individuals and how socioeconomic status (SES), social relations, and baseline health differentiate these trajectories. Methods. Data came from a five-wave panel study of a national sample of 2,200 Japanese old adults between 1987 and 1999. Hierarchical linear models and cluster analysis were employed to depict major patterns of temporal changes in self-rated health.

Results. Overall perceived health becomes worse, but only slightly, between ages 60 and 85, whereas it appears to improve a little bit after age 85. Underlying the observed age norm are four subtrajectories including constant good health, early onset of perceived health decline, late onset of perceived health decline, and a course of recovery from poor self-assessed health.

Discussion. Diverse subjective health trajectories exist in old age, extending well into the 90s. Prior observations of the effects of SES, social relations, and baseline health on health states and transitions can now be extended to trajectories of subjective health. Our analysis of Japanese data provides important benchmarks for comparisons with observations made in other developed nations.

Country of focus: Japan.

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