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In surveys that ask people to assess their own health, large majorities of respondents routinely rate their condition as robust. But do they feel they’re getting healthier, getting less healthy or staying as is? That’s one of the questions addressed in a report issued last month by the federal government’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Drawing on extensive household-interview data gathered during 2008, the study found 61 percent of participants rating their health as “excellent” or “very good” and another 26 percent terming it “good.” Thirteen percent described it as “fair” or “poor.”
When asked to compare their current health status to that of a year earlier, just 9 percent said it was worse, vs. 19 percent saying it was better. The remaining 72 percent said it was about the same as it had been the prior year.
Among those who put themselves in the excellent/very good category, 20 percent said their health was better than it had been a year earlier, vs. 4 percent saying it had worsened. The rest said it was about the same.
The pattern was similar for those rating their health as good: 20 percent said it was better than the prior year, 71 percent that it was about the same and 10 percent that it was worse. (The total exceeds 100 percent due to rounding.) As you’d expect, a larger number of those in the fair-or-poor category said their health was worse than it had been a year earlier (28 percent). But 18 percent said it was better, with the rest saying it was about the same.
To a striking degree, the study’s very old folks feel healthy and don’t feel they're getting less healthy. Among participants age 75 and older, 35 percent rated their health as excellent or very good, 37 percent as good and just 28 percent as fair or poor. Even among those who put themselves in the fair-or-poor category, a majority said their health was either better (9 percent) or about the same (53 percent) as it had been the prior year, with 38 percent rating it as worse.
Being married is good for one’s health, evidently. Sixty-four percent of the study’s married participants rated their health as excellent or very good, vs. 60 percent of those who’ve never married -- even though the latter group skews young. Among participants “living with a partner,” 56 percent put their health in the excellent/very good category. The figures were considerably lower for those who are divorced or separated (51 percent) or widowed (49 percent).