Study design: Prospective cross-sectional survey.
Objectives: To compare quality of life (QOL) for people with spinal cord injury (SCI) and their able-bodied peers and to investigate the relationship between QOL and disability (impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions) across the lifespan, for people with SCI.
Setting: A community outreach service for people with SCI in Queensland, Australia.
Methods: A random sample of 270 individuals who sustained SCI during the past 60 years was surveyed using a guided telephone interview format. The sample was drawn from the archival records of a statewide rehabilitation service. QOL was measured using the World Health Organization Quality of Life Assessment Instrument-Bref, impairment was measured according to the American Spinal Injury Association classification and the Secondary Condition Surveillance Instrument, activity limitations using the motor subscale of the Functional Independence Measure and participation restrictions using the Community Integration Measure. Lifespan was considered in terms of age and time since injury. Correlation and regression analyses were employed to determine the relationship between QOL and components of disability across the lifespan.
Results: QOL was significantly poorer for people with SCI compared to the Australian norm. It was found to be associated with secondary impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions but not with neurological level, age or time since injury. The single most important predictor of QOL was secondary impairments whereas the second most important predictor was participation.
Conclusion: To optimize QOL across the lifespan, rehabilitation services must maintain their focus on functional attainment and minimizing secondary conditions, although at the same time enabling participation.