Self-rated health is a valid measure of health that predicts quality of life, morbidity, and mortality. Its predictive value reflects a conceptualization of health that goes beyond a traditional medical model. However, less is known about self-rated mental health (SRMH). Using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (N = 2,547), we examine how rating your mental health as good—despite meeting criteria for a mental health problem—predicts outcomes. We found that 62% of people with a mental health problem rated their mental health positively. Persons who rated their mental health as good (compared to poor) had 30% lower odds of having a mental health problem at follow-up. Even without treatment, persons with a mental health problem did better if they perceived their mental health positively. SRMH might comprise information beyond the experience of symptoms. Understanding the unobserved information individuals incorporate into SRMH will help us improve screening and treatment interventions.

Donna D. McAlpine, Ellen McCreedy, Sirry Alang
Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Feb. 6, 2018