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Interpreting Trends in Self-Reported Health

Publication Abstract

Waidmann, Timothy A., and John Bound. "Interpreting Trends in Self-Reported Health." PSC Research Report No. 92-253. September 1992.

Support for the notion that the health of the older population is declining has come from the National Health Interview Survey which, during the 1970s, showed a trend toward worsening self- reported health among the middle aged and older population. In this paper the authors examine recent trends in self-reported health, finding that the trend towards worsening health reversed during the 1980s. The regime shift that seems to have occurred between the 1970s and 1980s would appear to belie any notion that longer life necessarily implies worse health, but we argue that the trends during the 1980s also call into question whether trends in self-reported health during the 1970s were a reflection of worsening health. We hypothesize that a plausible explanation for these trends in not a worsening of the average health of the population, but rather a combination of the earlier accommodation of pre-existing health problems and the earlier diagnosis of pre- existing conditions.

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