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black churchSelf-rated health—or, a person’s perception of their own health—has been shown to be a strong predictor of illness and even death. A new study in the journal Ethnicity and Disease finds that African-Americans with poorer self-rated health tend to be overweight or obese, engage in less physical activity, and have poorer diets.

But another, unexpected finding is that many African Americans with serious chronic health problems rate their health as good or even excellent.

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“Self-rated health hasn’t been studied very much in African Americans,” lead study author Meghan Baruth, Ph.D., of the University of South Carolina explained.

“We wanted to see what factors—both disease-related and people’s behaviors—are associated with self-rated health in this population,” she says.

Baruth’s study analyzed data from over 1,200 participants in the Faith, Activity and Nutrition program, a 15-month program that promoted healthy behaviors such as physical exercise and healthy eating choices in 74 African Methodist Episcopal churches in South Carolina.

Baruth found that African Americans who rated their health highly were less likely to have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis or obesity. Participants with higher self-rated health were also more likely to be physically active, and eat less fat and more fiber. They also reported lower levels of stress.

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