The ICF and third-party disability: its application to spouses of older people with hearing impairment

Disabil Rehabil. 2009;31(25):2088-100. doi: 10.3109/09638280902927028.


Purpose: Third-party disability is defined as the disability of family members due to the health condition of their significant other and was identified as a direction for future development by the World Health Organization in 2001. The aim of this article is to identify the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) domains and categories that describe third-party disability of spouses of older people with hearing impairment.

Method: Ten spouses of older people with hearing impairment participated in individual semi-structured in-depth interviews. Themes identified by participants were linked according to ICF instructions to deliver a set of ICF category codes relevant to the study of third-party disability in spouses of older people with hearing impairment.

Results: A total of 18 themes and 50 sub-themes emerged from analysis of the interviews. The majority of these themes were able to be linked to the ICF, with the majority linking to codes in the activities and participation component. A number of contextual factors also emerged in the interviews that impacted on the spouses' third-party disability. Difficulties arose when attempting to link themes to the body function component.

Conclusions: The ICF appears to be a useful tool in describing the effects of hearing impairment on the significant other; however, further research is necessary to clarify the applicability of some codes to third-party disability, especially the relevance of body functions to third-party disability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Communication
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments / rehabilitation*
  • Spouses*