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01.12.2012 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

International Journal for Equity in Health 1/2012

Is self-rated health a valid measure to use in social inequities and health research? Evidence from the PAPFAM women’s data in six Arab countries

International Journal for Equity in Health > Ausgabe 1/2012
Sawsan Abdulrahim, Khalil El Asmar
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1475-9276-11-53) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SA conceptualized the study, supervised data analysis, and drafted the manuscript. KA performed the statistical analysis and contributed to drafting some sections of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript



Some evidence from high-income countries suggests that self-rated health (SRH) is not a consistent predictor of objective health across social groups, and that its use may lead to inaccurate estimates of the effects of inequities on health. Given increased interest in studying and monitoring social inequities in health worldwide, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the validity of SRH as a consistent measure of health across socioeconomic categories in six Arab countries.


We employed the PAPFAM population-based survey data on women from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to assess the strength of the association between fair/poor SRH and objective health (reporting at least one chronic condition), adjusting for available socio-demographic and health-related variables. Analyses were then stratified by two socioeconomic indicators: education and household economic status.


The association between SRH and objective health is strong in Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria, and OPT, but weak in Morocco. The strength of the association between reporting fair/poor health and objective health was not moderated by education or household economic status in any of the six countries.


As the SRH-objective health association does not vary across social categories, the use of the measure in social inequities in health research is justified. These results should not preclude the need to carry out other validation studies using longitudinal data on men and women, or the need to advocate for improving the quality of morbidity and mortality data in the Arab region.
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Authors’ original file for figure 2
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