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Patterns of self-rated health in older adults before and after sentinel events
J Am Geriatr Soc (2001)
  • Paula Diehr, University of Washington
OBJECTIVES: To describe and compare patterns of change in self-rated health for older adults before death and before and after stroke, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, cardiac procedure, hospital admission for cancer, and hip fracture. DESIGN: "Event cohort," measuring time in months before and after the event. SETTING: Four U.S. communities. PARTICIPANTS: 5888 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), sampled from Medicare rolls and followed up to 8 years. Mean age at baseline was 73. MEASUREMENTS: Self-rated health, including a category for death, assessed at 6-month intervals, and ascertainment of events. METHODS: We examined the percentage that was healthy each month in the 5 years before death and in the 2 years before and after the other events, and compared the patterns to a "no event" group and to one another, using graphs and linear regression. RESULTS: For people who died, health status declined slowly until about 9 months before death, when it dropped steeply. Comparing persons equally far from death, health was unrelated to age, but men and whites were healthier than women and blacks. Health for other events declined before the event, dropped steeply at the event, showed some recovery, and then declined further after the event. About 65% to 80% of the subjects were healthy 2 years before their event, but only 35% to 65% were healthy two years afterwards. Patterns were similar although less extreme for the "no event" group. CONCLUSION: Visualizing trajectories of health helps us understand how serious health events changes health. Conclusions about change must be drawn with care because of a variety of possible biases. We have described the trajectories in detail. Work is now needed to explain, predict, and possibly prevent such changes in health.
  • POOR,
  • stroke,
  • MI
Publication Date
January, 2001
Citation Information
Paula Diehr. "Patterns of self-rated health in older adults before and after sentinel events" J Am Geriatr Soc Vol. 49 Iss. 1 (2001)
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