Self-Rated Health

A Culturally-Relevant Perspective on This Issue

Introduction

Self-rated health is a measure of a person’s perception of his or her own health, measured on a five point scale of excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor [1]. Self-rated health includes a range of aspects of people’s health such as incipient disease, disease severity, pain and discomfort, social, mental and physical function, physiological, and psychological resources [2]. Self-rated health is an important indicator of a population’s overall health and wellbeing. The self-rated health of Aboriginal people is lower than that of the general population [2] and may reflect the poor socio-economic and health conditions present in some Aboriginal communities. There is a lack of socio-economic and health data, as well as data on how they relate and affect self-rated health, particularly for the Métis and Inuit populations [3]. This data would be useful to better understand and improve the health (and self-rated health) of all Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

First Nations

A 2003 poll by the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) found that 73% of First Nations people interviewed reported themselves to be in good to excellent health, 13% rated themselves as excellent, 27% very good, 33% as good, and 27% as fair or poor [4]. Though the majority of First Nations people rate their health positively, the self-rated health measure is lower than that of the general Canadian population [4]. First Nations males reported a slightly higher level (76%) of self-rated health compared to women (70%). As in the general population, a positive health rating was found to correlate with level of income and education. For example, 50% of First Nations respondents making $30,000 or more reported their health to be excellent, compared to only 35% of respondents who earned less than $30,000 per year. Of the respondents classifying themselves as healthy, exercise (48%) and a balanced diet (43%) were cited as being the most important contributor to their good health [4].

Métis

The 2006 Aboriginal Peoples Survey found that 58% of adult Métis respondents rated their health as excellent or very good, similar to rates reported in 2001. The self-rated health measures were reportedly similar among Métis men and women [5]. The self-rated health varies by age group, with 75% of Métis people between 15 and 19 reporting excellent or very good health, which is higher than the Canadian average for the same age range (67%).  For the age group 25-34, 70% report excellent to good health, which is the same as the general population. The proportion of Métis rating their health as excellent or very good for ages 35 years and older declines steadily and is lower than the general population [5].

Inuit

The self-rated health for Inuit people is also low, with only 50% rating their health as excellent or very good. More Inuit men (52%) compared to Inuit women (48%) rated their health as excellent or very good, though this difference is not statistically significant. The proportion of respondents who rated their health as excellent or very good decreased with increased age. Among males, those aged 15-24 were most likely to rate their health as excellent to very good (59%), whereas for females, those aged 25-34 were most likely to rate their health highly (59%) [6].  The low self-rated health for Inuit people can be partly explained by the high prevalence of health and social problems, as well as a lack of access to health care services, particularly among those who live in rural and remote regions such as Inuit Nunaat (the northern regions of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, and Labrador) [7].

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