Introduction Self-reported health is commonly used as an outcome in health and social science research, but how general health is related to specific health states or functional domains such mobility, affect and cognition remains unclear. Also, there is a paucity of research on whether, if any, such associations differ across world regions and countries. In this paper, we explore the influence of individual health domains, such as vision and mobility on self-reported general health, and how this influence may vary across world regions as categorised by geography, economy, and mortality.
Methods Applying multilevel regression methods to World Health Survey data on 255 000 individuals in 68 countries, we quantified associations between eight detailed health state domains (namely, mobility, self-care, pain, cognition, interpersonal activities, vision, sleep, and affect) and self-reported general health with(out) stratification by world region, national income grouping, and country mortality.
Results Overall, by region, and by income, levels of mobility and pain consistently had the most influence on general health score. For other health domains, similar patterns of influence were observed in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East, but these patterns differed in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands. Differences in health state influence were also evident when comparing lower middle and low income countries with higher income countries.
Conclusion Although reduced mobility and increased levels of pain consistently predict self-assessed general health scores in all areas of the world, there are substantial differences, by geography and economic development, in how other health states impact general health.
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