Are you in good health? If so, then you could be right. We may be the best predictors of our own health, according to a new study.
The journal Psychosomatic Medicine published a study which found that individuals who are healthy who classified their health as excellent were less probable to have poorer immune system function and were less at risk to the common cold, compared with those who rated their health has low.
According to Sheldon Cohen, study co-author from the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, former research has suggested that self-ratings of bad health are foretellers of poor health in older adults.
Cohen added that amazingly, these associations are still noteworthy even after accounting for the effects of objective signs of health such as hospitalizations, medical records and physical exams.
It has been proposed that such a connection may be due to people tending to judge themselves as healthier partake in a healthier lifestyle or if they have good emotional well-being, and those people are less probable to become ill.
In this recent study, Cohen and colleagues aimed to examine whether self-ratings of health among younger adults could foretell immune response, and whether the results could be due to lifestyle or socioemotional factors.
Participants with lower-rated health more probable to develop a cold
The team requested 360 healthy adults of an average age of 33 to evaluate their health as “poor,” “fair,” “good,” very good,” or “excellent.”
A mere 2% of the subjects reported their health as fair, and no one reported poor health. The researchers stated that this was predictable because the study enrolled healthy adults.
Next, the subjects were exposed to a common cold virus and observed for 5 days to determine if they developed the illness. This was in order to test their immune response. About a third of the subjects developed a cold.
According to the results, those who rated their health as very good, good or fair were over two times as likely to develop a cold, compared with subjects who evaluated their health as excellent.
The results were not only independent of subjects’ sex, age, body mass index (BMI), race, income and education; but the researchers found that they were unable to be explained by participants’ socioemotional factors and health practices.
Further examination showed that the results were also independent of subjects’ history of contracting common colds.
The team believes their findings may potentially be explained by “pre-morbid indicators” of immune system dysfunction, that is, sensations or feelings that something is wrong.
Therefore, the researchers say that doctors should request patients to rate their own health, as they may be on the right path to something.
However, they note that more research is needed to establish whether the results could be translational to public health settings.