Self-reported health (SRH) is one of the most frequently used measures for examining socioeconomic inequalities in health. Studies find that when faced with ‘identical objective health’, individuals in lower socioeconomic groups consistently report worse SRH than those in higher socioeconomic groups. Such findings are often dismissed as being the result of reporting bias, and existing literature dominated by the biomedical conception of SRH has not investigated the underlying social mechanisms at work. To address this limitation, drawing on the work of Bourdieu we employ a relational thinking between health and social position. By way of multiple correspondence analysis, we construct social space of health determinants for three European countries from different welfare states and map the trajectories of educational groups experiencing similar levels of morbidity and their relation to SRH. Differences in SRH observed among social groups for the same level of morbidity are understood in relation to the position and the relative power of individuals in different educational groups to maintain or improve their social conditions, especially with increasing levels of health loss. Our analysis indicates that reporting differences in SRH among educational groups emerges from objectively healthy individuals and follows differences in accumulation of social advantages and disadvantages.