Evolving Self-Rated Health in Middle and Old Age: How Does it Differ Across Black, Hispanic, and White Americans?

Objective:This research focuses on ethnic variations in the intraindividual changes in self-rated health. Method: Data came from the Health and Retirement Study involving up to 6 repeated observations between 1995 and 2006 of a national sample of 18,486 Americans above 50 years of age. Hierarchical linear models were employed in depicting variations in self-rated health across White, Black, and Hispanic Americans. Results: Subjective health worsened over time albeit moderately. Relative to younger persons, older individuals rated their health poorer with a greater rate of deteriorating health. With reference to ethnic variations in the intercept and slope of perceived health, White Americans rated their health most positively, followed by Black Americans, with Hispanics rating their health least positively. This pattern held even when socioeconomic status, social networks, and prior health were adjusted. Discussion: Significant ethnic differences exist in the evolvement of self-rated health in middle and late life. Further inquiries may include analyzing ethnic heterogeneities from a person-centered perspective, health disparities across subgroups of Hispanics, effects of neighborhood attributes, and implications of left truncation.