What is the relationship between the minimally important difference and health state utility values? The case of the SF-6D

Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2003 Apr 11:1:4. doi: 10.1186/1477-7525-1-4.


Background: The SF-6D is a new single summary preference-based measure of health derived from the SF-36. Empirical work is required to determine what is the smallest change in SF-6D scores that can be regarded as important and meaningful for health professionals, patients and other stakeholders.

Objectives: To use anchor-based methods to determine the minimally important difference (MID) for the SF-6D for various datasets.

Methods: All responders to the original SF-36 questionnaire can be assigned an SF-6D score provided the 11 items used in the SF-6D have been completed. The SF-6D can be regarded as a continuous outcome scored on a 0.29 to 1.00 scale, with 1.00 indicating "full health". Anchor-based methods examine the relationship between an health-related quality of life (HRQoL) measure and an independent measure (or anchor) to elucidate the meaning of a particular degree of change. One anchor-based approach uses an estimate of the MID, the difference in the QoL scale corresponding to a self-reported small but important change on a global scale. Patients were followed for a period of time, then asked, using question 2 of the SF-36 as our global rating scale, (which is not part of the SF-6D), if there general health is much better (5), somewhat better (4), stayed the same (3), somewhat worse (2) or much worse (1) compared to the last time they were assessed. We considered patients whose global rating score was 4 or 2 as having experienced some change equivalent to the MID. In patients who reported a worsening of health (global change of 1 or 2) the sign of the change in the SF-6D score was reversed (i.e. multiplied by minus one). The MID was then taken as the mean change on the SF-6D scale of the patients who scored (2 or 4).

Results: This paper describes the MID for the SF-6D from seven longitudinal studies that had previously used the SF-36.

Conclusions: From the seven reviewed studies (with nine patient groups) the MID for the SF-6D ranged from 0.010 to 0.048, with a weighted mean estimate of 0.033 (95% CI: 0.029 to 0.037). The corresponding Standardised Response Means (SRMs) ranged from 0.11 to 0.48, with a mean of 0.30 and were mainly in the "small to moderate" range using Cohen's criteria, supporting the MID results. Using the half-standard deviation (of change) approach the mean effect size was 0.051 (range 0.033 to 0.066). Further empirical work is required to see whether or not this holds true for other patient groups and populations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Observation
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Psychometrics / instrumentation*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*