Gender, the Life Course, and Self-rated Health in Rural South Africa: A Mixed-Methods Study

Sanyu Mojola , Princeton University
Erin Ice, University of Michigan
Enid Schatz, University of Missouri, Columbia
Francesc Gomez-Olive, Harvard University

This paper examines the meaning of self-rated health in rural South Africa, where over 70% of adults aged 40 and over are dealing with a major illness. We draw on a unique mixed methods dataset including a population based survey with disease biomarkers (hypertension, diabetes, HIV), and responses on self-rated health, as well as qualitative life history interviews with survey participants. We conduct trend analysis, ordinal logistic regression as well as inductive and deductive coding of qualitative interviews. We find that overall, self-rated health was not associated with objective health indicators, but rather was shaped by gender and life course stage. Specifically, while for women at all ages self-rated health more closely reflected objective experiences of poor health, for men, health was associated with their employment status and ability to provide for their family during working ages, and to having a wife to take care of them at older ages.

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 Presented in Session 9. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions; Gender, Race, & Ethnicity