Background In this article, self-perceived health in 11 European Union countries and Turkey was studied and the effects of socio-economic factors on self-rated health in Turkey were analysed. Methods The percentage distributions of self-perceived health, chronic morbidity and activity limits in the health module of the Income and Living Condition Surveys conducted between 2008 and 2016 in the EU-28 and Turkey were analysed. The effects of income, education, work status, gender, marital status and age on self-perceived health, chronic morbidity and activity limitations were tested with stepwise binary logistic regression. Results In the EU-28 and Turkey, 70%-75% of the population aged >= 16 years reported very good or good health, while the rate of chronic illness averaged around 30-35%. Socio-economic conditions in the EU-28 and Turkey affected self-perceived health and illness. It was found that income, education level, gender, employment status, marital status and age groups had significant effects on having a poor health status. Conclusion The prevalence of chronic illness in more densely populated EU countries was above the EU-28 average. One in three people in the EU-28 and Turkey had at least one or more chronic conditions. The people in the bottom income quintile usually had the lowest education level in Turkey. These two significant factors coincided with negative health status, chronic conditions and daily activity limitations since health issues are more commonly observed in people with lower socio-economic status. Age was the most important determinant of chronic conditions in Turkey. For every 10 years of age, the risk of poor health and chronic illness increased exponentially.