Quality of Life Research

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 431-442

First online:

Probabilities of transition among health states for older adults

  • Paula DiehrAffiliated withDepartment of Biostatistics, University of WashingtonDepartment of Health Services, University of Washington
  • , Donald L. PatrickAffiliated withDepartment of Health Services, University of Washington

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Goal: To estimate the probabilities of transition among self-rated health states for older adults, and examine how they vary by age and sex. Methods: We used self-rated health (excellent, very good, good, fair, poor, dead) collected in two longitudinal studies of older adults (mean age 75) to estimate the probability of transition in 2 years. We used the estimates to project future health for selected cohorts. Findings: These older adults were most likely to be in the same health state 2 years later, but a substantial proportion changed in both directions. Transition probabilities varied by initial health state, age and sex. Men were more likely than women to transition to excellent or dead. Women were more likely than men to transition to good or fair health. Although women aged 70 will have more years of life and more years of healthy life than men, they also have more years of unhealthy life, and the proportion of remaining life that is healthy is slightly higher for men. When observed and predicted years of healthy life (YHL) were compared in various subgroups, the YHL of persons with less favorable baseline characteristics was lower than predicted, and vice-versa. Differences, however, were small (about 5%). Conclusions: These transition probability estimates can be used to predict the future health of individuals or groups as a function of current age, sex, and self-rated health.

Aged Clinical trials Cost-benefit Discounting Health status Healthy life expectancy QALY Survival