Racial differences in self-rated health at similar levels of physical functioning: An examination of health pessimism in the health, aging, and body composition study

S. Melinda Spencer, Richard Schulz, Ronica N. Rooks, Steven M. Albert, Roland J. Thorpe, Gretchen A. Brenes, Tamara B. Harris, Annemarie Koster, Suzanne Satterfield, Hilsa N. Ayonayon, Anne B. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background. The health pessimism hypothesis suggests that Black elders are more pessimistic about health than Whites and therefore tend to report lower self-rated health (SRH) at comparable health status. The current analysis examined the factors associated with SRH and tested the health pessimism hypothesis among older adults at similar levels of physical functioning. Methods. The study example included 2,729 Health, Aging, and Body Composition study participants aged 70-79 years. We used hierarchical logistic regression to examine the association between race and SRH while adjusting for demographic, physical health, and psychosocial factors. The analyses were repeated for participants at similar levels of objective functioning to test the health pessimism hypothesis. Results. The association between race and SRH remained independent of physical and psychosocial health variables, with Whites being 3.7 times more likely than Black elders to report favorable SRH. This association was significant at each level of physical functioning and greater at the higher (odds ratio [OR] = 5.5) versus lower (OR = 2.2) levels of functioning. Conclusions. The results suggest greater health pessimism among Black elders and expand previous work by including objective functioning in multidimensional models to deconstruct race variations in the SRH of older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-94
Number of pages8
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume64
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2009

Keywords

  • Health pessimism
  • Objective measures
  • Physical functioning
  • Self-rated health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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