Perceived General Health vs. Objective Physiological Health Among Senior Women of Kingston: Identifying the Overestimators
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Self-reported health (SRH) tends to decline slower as people age compared to the decline of their objective health. If individuals believe they are in good health but actually are in poor health, their perceived susceptibility to disease may be low. Consequently, those individuals may feel less compelled to improve their health, which would make them a higher risk population. This project aims to examine the association of SRH and Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) in senior women, and whether personal and interpersonal dimensions help explain the degree to which SRH corresponds with MetS. Data are from the Kingston Senior Women Study (KSWS, n=100, 65 years of age and older). KSWS participants completed a questionnaire on their social background, psychosocial conditions, health behaviours, and SRH. Participants also provided physiological measures and medical information, so that MetS could be assessed, following the harmonized definition. MetS is a cluster of at least three of the following criteria: obesity, elevated blood pressure, low level of HDL cholesterol, raised triglycerides, and fasting plasma glucose. Two categories represented the correspondence between SRH and MetS: those who have a congruent perception of their health and those who overestimated it. Greater physical activity was associated with higher SRH (OR: 1.10; 95%CI: 1.01 – 1.20) and lower odds of MetS (OR: 0.64, 95%CI: 0.47 – 0.88) among the participants. However, only social network size was associated with lower odds of health overestimation (OR: 0.46, 95%CI: 0.26 – 0.80). Larger social networks may give access older women to a greater source of information about their own health, leading possibly to more accurate assessments of health. Such information can be conveyed as feedback from close ties. This information can also be conveyed as a more accurate perception of the health of their reference group when self-assessing their own health. Findings of this study may help identify women who are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease but who may be less likely to participate in health promotion programs.