Does self-assessed health measure health?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Applied Economics, 2015, 47 (2), pp. 180 - 194
Issue Date:
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Despite concerns about reporting biases and interpretation, self-assessed health (SAH) remains the measure of health most used by researchers, in part reflecting its ease of collection and in part the observed correlation between SAH and objective measures of health. Using a unique Australian data set, which consists of survey data linked to administrative individual medical records, we present empirical evidence demonstrating that SAH indeed predicts future health, as measured by hospitalizations, out-of-hospital medical services and prescription drugs. Our large sample size allows very disaggregate analysis and we find that SAH predicts more serious, chronic illnesses better than less serious illnesses. Finally, we compare the predictive power of SAH relative to administrative data and an extensive set of self-reported health measures; SAH does not add to the predictive power of future utilization when the administrative data is included and improves prediction only marginally when the extensive survey-based health measures are included. Clearly there is value in the more extensive survey and administrative health data as well as greater cost of collection.
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