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Health status is hard to measure. It is widely recognized that health is multi-dimensional reflecting the combination of an array of factors that include physical, mental and social well-being, genotype and phenotype influences as well as expectations and information. A multitude of health indicators have been used in scientific studies drawing on data from both the developed and developing world. Understanding what those indicators measure is central if the results reported in the studies are to be interpreted in a meaningful way. Whether one is interested in summarizing the health of a population or understanding the links between health and other measures of well-being at the individual level, poor measurement will likely yield poor inferences. This paper attempts to provide insights into the meaning of a set of relatively general health indicators that are commonly collected in health interview surveys.

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