Journal Article

Cross-national health comparisons using the Rasch model: findings from the 2012 US Health and Retirement Study and the 2012 Mexican Health and Aging Study

Hong, I., Reistetter, T. A., Díaz-Venegas, C., Michaels-Obregón, A., Wong, R.
Quality of Life Research, 27:9, 2431–2441 (2018)



Cross-national comparisons of patterns of population aging have emerged as comparable national micro-data have become available. This study creates a metric using Rasch analysis and determines the health of American and Mexican older adult populations.


Secondary data analysis using representative samples aged 50 and older from 2012 U.S. Health and Retirement Study (n = 20,554); 2012 Mexican Health and Aging Study (n = 14,448). We developed a function measurement scale using Rasch analysis of 22 daily tasks and physical function questions. We tested psychometrics of the scale including factor analysis, fit statistics, internal consistency, and item difficulty. We investigated differences in function using multiple linear regression controlling for demographics. Lastly, we conducted subgroup analyses for chronic conditions.


The created common metric demonstrated a unidimensional structure with good item fit, an acceptable precision (person reliability = 0.78), and an item difficulty hierarchy. The American adults appeared less functional than adults in Mexico (β = − 0.26, p < 0.0001) and across two chronic conditions (arthritis, β = − 0.36; lung problems, β = − 0.62; all p < 0.05). However, American adults with stroke were more functional than Mexican adults (β = 0.46, p = 0.047).


The Rasch model indicates that Mexican adults were more functional than Americans at the population level and across two chronic conditions (arthritis and lung problems). Future studies would need to elucidate other factors affecting the function differences between the two countries.

Keywords: Mexico, USA, ageing, disability, health
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.