Introduction:Self-rated health (SRH) predicts chronic disease morbidity including cardiovascular disease (CVD). In a population-based cohort, we examined the association between SRH and incident CVD and whether this association was independent of socio-demographic, clinical and behavioural participant characteristics.Methods:Population-based prospective cohort study (European Prospective Investigation of Cancer-Norfolk). 20,941 men and women aged 39-74 years without prevalent CVD attended a baseline health examination (1993-1998) and were followed for CVD events/death until March 2007 (mean 11 years). We used a Cox proportional hazards model to quantify the association between baseline SRH (reported on a four point scale - excellent, good, fair, poor) and risk of developing CVD at follow-up after adjusting for socio-demographic, clinical and behavioural risk factors.Results:Baseline SRH was reported as excellent by 17.8% participants, good by 65.1%, fair by 16.0% and poor by 1.2%. During 225,508 person-years of follow-up, there were 55 (21.2%) CVD events in the poor SRH group and 259 (7.0%) in the excellent SRH group (HR 3.7, 95% CI 2.8-4.9). The HR remained significant after adjustment for behavioural risk factors (HR 2.6, 95% CI 1.9-3.5) and after adjustment for all socio-demographic, clinical and behavioural risk factors (HR 3.3, 95% CI 2.4-4.4). Associations were strong for both fatal and non-fatal events and remained strong over time.Conclusions:SRH is a strong predictor of incident fatal and non-fatal CVD events in this healthy, middle-aged population. Some of the association is explained by lifestyle behaviours, but SRH remains a strong predictor after adjustment for socio-demographic, clinical and behavioural risk factors and after a decade of follow-up. This easily accessible patient-centred measure of health status may be a useful indicator of individual and population health for those working in primary care and public health. © 2013 van der Linde et al.