Framing Health Assessment: Differences in Subjective Perceptions of Health by Educational Attainment Level
Farrar, Haley E.
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Extensive academic study has revealed a positive correlation between educational attainment and health; education is considered a major social determinant of health. Less commonly researched, however is research into how education might affect how individuals perceive and report their health status. Using the Canadian Community Health Survey, this study explores social patterns in health reporting behaviour. In particular, it examines the extent to which individuals’ self-perceived health corresponds to their health functioning, and how the degree of correspondence varies by educational background. The study also examines whether educational attainment affects the ‘frames of reference’ that individuals use to evaluate their health. Findings indicate that individuals with lower levels of education have more highly correlated self-perceived health status and physical health functioning than those with higher levels of education. While both educational groups commonly use their physical conditions to assess their health, individuals with high education are more likely to also consider their health behaviours. These results can be attributed to health habitus and its ability to structure health assessment. They demonstrate that people’s perceptions of their health are not based solely on actual illness and disability, but also on normative views shaped by education and social position.