An analysis of a self-reported health survey with more than 8000 participants found that the worse people described their health in the beginning of the study, the less likely they were to be living 30 years later. The study suggests that there is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts when it comes to rating one’s own health.  There have previously been several short-term studies finding that how people rate their own health is a predictor of their mortality, but this the first to examine the issue beyond a 5-10 year scope.  The short time span of these studies has left questions about whether people who reported poor health were actually having early symptoms of health conditions or disease, prior to being diagnosed.

The analysis was conducted by researchers at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine.  In 1970 the participants were first asked to describe their health, on a scale ranging from “excellent” to “very poor.” In 2000, the researchers assessed how the participants had fared. The study found that men who rated their health as “very poor” were more than three times as likely to die over the study compared to men of the same age who reported their health as “excellent.” Women who reported very poor health had double the risk of death compared to women said that they were much healthier. Rates of death gradually grew with each notch lower on the health scale. Overall, roughly half of the participants rated their health as ‘‘good’’.  After accounting for factors including smoking history, disease diagnoses, blood pressure, and use of medications, the trend was significant.   The analysis concluded that that self-reported health offers relevant and sustained health information beyond medical history or classical risk factors.

In response to the study, Dr. Mona Misra, a bariatric surgeon in Los Angeles, said “This is something to keep in mind for individuals struggling with their weight, where self-esteem takes a beating with repeated failed attempts at dieting, and discrimination they face daily. Giving people a solution that can actually work long term will not only improve their health through ways we already know about, such as diabetes and hypertension resolution, but by treating their weight and improving their self-esteem and self-image, this study shows that their overall health and wellness should also be benefited. This once again reinforces what weight loss surgeons understand: obesity affects the entire body from head to toe, and by attacking obesity we are treating the entire body.”

Perhaps people who rate their health as ‘excellent’ have an advantage over others, and not solely because of absence of disease, but because of a high satisfaction with their life.  These findings, combined with other long-term results, suggest that people who have an optimistic view of their health are not just tuned in to medically induced premonitions–they may also have personality attributes that boost their resilience and boost their well-being. At Oregon Weight Loss Surgery, we have also seen the benefits of a positive outlook in achieving sustainable weight loss. You can learn more about weight loss surgery and its health benefits here.

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