Self-rated health in individuals with and without disease is associated with multiple biomarkers representing multiple biological domains | March 2021 | Scientific Reports
Self-rated health (SRH) is one of the most frequently used indicators in health and social research. Its robust association with mortality in very different populations implies that it is a comprehensive measure of health status and may even reflect the condition of the human organism beyond clinical diagnoses. Yet the biological basis of SRH is poorly understood. We used data from three independent European population samples (N approx. 15,000) to investigate the associations of SRH with 150 biomolecules in blood or urine (biomarkers). Altogether 57 biomarkers representing different organ systems were associated with SRH. In almost half of the cases the association was independent of disease and physical functioning. Biomarkers weakened but did not remove the association between SRH and mortality. We propose three potential pathways through which biomarkers may be incorporated into an individual’s subjective health assessment, including (1) their role in clinical diseases; (2) their association with health-related lifestyles; and (3) their potential to stimulate physical sensations through interoceptive mechanisms. Our findings indicate that SRH has a solid biological basis and it is a valid but non-specific indicator of the biological condition of the human organism.