Is Self-Rated Health Comparable Between Non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanics?

DejunSuDr. Dejun Su is the Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Currently, he is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Social and Behavioral Health at UNMC.

Dr. Su’s research centers on health disparities, social demography, and health research and policy. Part of his work in these fields has been published in Social Science and Medicine, Health Affairs, Population and Development Review, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Health Services Research, Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Journal of Rural Health, and American Journal of Human Biology, amongst others. Dr. Su has been successful in obtaining funding support from several federal agencies including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and Office of Minority Health.

Dr. Su’s recent paper, titled Is self-rated health comparable between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics? Evidence from the health and retirement study was published in Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (doi:10.1093/geronb/gbt037). The co-authors of the paper also include Dr. Ming Wen, Professor of Sociology from the University of Utah, and Dr. Kyriakos S. Markides, Annie & John Gnitzinger Distinguished Professor of Aging Studies from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Background of the study

Self-rated health (SRH) has been commonly used in health studies and surveys. However, so far little attention has been paid to the comparability of SRH across racial and ethnic groups. That is, whether people from different racial or ethnic groups perceive their own health the same way. Based on longitudinal data from 6,870 white and 886 Hispanic respondents of ages between 51 and 61 in the 1992 Health and Retirement Study, we related SRH in 1992 to risk of mortality in the 1992-2008 period to assess whether and the extent to which the SRH-mortality association differs between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics.

Primary findings

Overall, Hispanics of ages 51 to 61 rated their health more pessimistically than whites. This was especially the case for Hispanics who rated their health fair or poor at the baseline, while their presumed health conditions, as reflected by subsequent risk of mortality, should be considerably better than their white counterparts.


Health disparities between whites and Hispanics of ages between 51 and 61 will be overestimated if the assessment has been solely based on differences in SRH between the two groups. Findings from this study call for caution in relying on SRH to quantify and explain health disparities between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics in the U.S.

About the CRHD

The Center for Reducing Health Disparities (CRHD) in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is a unique organization with a mission to promote equity and social justice in health and health care by leading collaborative efforts to generate and disseminate evidence-based, policy-relevant solutions. The goals include:

  1. Enhancing the role of UNMC in addressing disparities in health outcomes among Nebraskans through consistent community engagement, partnerships, and advocacy
  2. Promoting translational research that would help reduce disparities in health status and health care at the local, state, national, and global levels
  3. Diversifying the sources of funding support for the Center and gradually reduce its dependence on internal support from UNMC
  4. Supporting UNMC’s education initiatives in health disparities.

The CRHD, under the leadership of Dr. Dejun Su, is a trusted source of health information, resources, and services as a direct result of its longstanding community partnerships and provides a number of health interventions and health education programming within underrepresented minority communities.