Self-ratings of current mental health may be able to predict future mental health, according to new research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Researchers asked people with mental health concerns to rate their psychological health. People who rated their mental health as “good” instead of “bad” were more likely to have good mental health a year later.
Self-Ratings and Mental Well-Being
The study gathered data on 2,547 participants in the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS). MEPS is a nationally representative study of health care use. It is drawn from a subsample of people whose households previously participated in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
Participants met the criteria for depression or serious psychological distress.
Researchers asked participants to rate their current mental health. Sixty-two percent of recruits said their mental health was good, even if they experienced symptoms of a mental health issue.
Researchers followed up with participants after one year. They found positive self-raters were 30% less likely than negative self-raters to meet criteria for a diagnosis. This trend remained even when positive self-raters did not receive mental health treatment.
How Self-Assessments Might Predict Mental Health
The study did not explore why self-rated mental health seems to predict future well-being.
The study’s authors suggest self-ratings may take more data into account than diagnostic criteria do. For instance, a person might rate their mental health higher if they have a supportive family or quality health care. Diagnostic criteria do not always include such variables.
Future research might study which factors people use to assess their mental health. These variables may offer insight into how people cope with their symptoms. The data could also help improve mental health screening and treatment.
- McAlpine, D. D., McCreedy, E., & Alang, S. (2018, February 6). The meaning and predictive value of self-rated mental health among persons with a mental health problem. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0022146518755485
- Self-rating mental health as ‘good’ predicts positive future mental health. (2018, April 2). EurekAlert. Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/lu-smh040218.php
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