Perception of poor health in the healthy older adult.
A survey of 977 community subjects aged 65 or older identified 719 of them as not impaired in physical health. Of these, 104 (14 percent) perceived their physical status to be poor, whereas 615 (86 percent) accurately perceived it to be unimpaired. There were no significant differences between the two groups with regard to age, sex, race, social class, living arrangements and number of drugs used. The physically healthy elderly who perceived their physical status to be poor were more depressed, more hypochondriacal, and more dissatisfied with life. They tended to complain of multiple symptoms; activities of daily living were decreased, and they were more likely to visit their doctor frequently during the year (analysis controlled for physical health in each case). Mental health was slightly but significantly more impaired in these subjects; nevertheless, they were more likely to seek the help of a trained counselor. The findings suggest that a self-perception of poor health among the physically healthy elderly may represent a generalized request for attention from trained personnel in the social environment.
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