Health-related quality of life associated with chronic conditions in eight countries: results from the International Quality of Life Assessment (IQOLA) Project

Qual Life Res. 2004 Mar;13(2):283-98. doi: 10.1023/b:qure.0000018472.46236.05.


Context: Few studies and no international comparisons have examined the impact of multiple chronic conditions on populations using a comprehensive health-related quality of life (HRQL) questionnaire.

Objective: The impact of common chronic conditions on HRQL among the general populations of eight countries was assessed.

Design: Cross-sectional mail and interview surveys were conducted.

Participants and setting: Sample representatives of the adult general population of eight countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway and the United States) were evaluated. Sample sizes ranged from 2031 to 4084.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported prevalence of chronic conditions (including allergies, arthritis, congestive heart failure, chronic lung disease, hypertension, diabetes, and ischemic heart disease), sociodemographic data and the SF-36 Health Survey were obtained. The SF-36 scale and summary scores were estimated for individuals with and without selected chronic conditions and compared across countries using multivariate linear regression analyses. Adjustments were made for age, gender, marital status, education and the mode of SF-36 administration.

Results: More than half (55.1%) of the pooled sample reported at least one chronic condition, and 30.2% had more than one. Hypertension, allergies and arthritis were the most frequently reported conditions. The effect of ischemic heart disease on many of the physical health scales was noteworthy, as was the impact of diabetes on general health, or arthritis on bodily pain scale scores. Arthritis, chronic lung disease and congestive heart failure were the conditions with a higher impact on SF-36 physical summary score, whereas for hypertension and allergies, HRQL impact was low (comparing with a typical person without chronic conditions, deviation scores were around -4 points for the first group and -1 for the second). Differences between chronic conditions in terms of their impact on SF-36 mental summary score were low (deviation scores ranged between -1 and -2).

Conclusions: Arthritis has the highest HRQL impact in the general population of the countries studied due to the combination of a high deviation score on physical scales and a high frequency. Impact of chronic conditions on HRQL was similar roughly across countries, despite important variation in prevalence. The use of HRQL measures such as the SF-36 should be useful to better characterize the global burden of disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sickness Impact Profile*
  • United States / epidemiology