Health-related quality of life in family members of intensive care unit patients

J Palliat Med. 2010 Sep;13(9):1131-7. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2010.0109.


Objective: The intensive care unit (ICU) experience has been reported to cause adverse health effects in families during and after the ICU stay. The objective of this study was to evaluate health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in relatives of patients 90 days after ICU discharge or death.

Design: Multicenter observational study.

Setting: Twenty-one ICUs in France.

Participants: Among 459 eligible relatives of ICU patients, 284 (62%) were included in the study.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: During a telephone interview, the SF-36 was completed to assess HRQOL 90 days after ICU discharge or death. The physical component summary score of the SF-36 was normal (89/100 [66-94]) but the mental component summary score showed substantial impairments (emotional role, 67 [50-80]; social functioning, 70 [60-90]; vitality, 60 [45-70]; and mental health, 60 [48-2]). Moreover, 35.9% of relatives were taking anxiolytic or antidepressant drugs, and 8.4% were taking psychotropic agents prescribed since the discharge or death of the patient. Among factors independently associated with a worse mental score, 2 were patient-related (admission for shock or implementation of end-of-life decision), 6 were family-related (older age, female gender, child of the patient, low income, chronic disease, and newly prescribed psychotropic medications), and 1 was related to the ICU experience (perceived conflicts between ICU staff and relatives).

Conclusions: The SF-36 showed evidence of impaired mental health in relatives of ICU patients 90 days after discharge. Better end-of-life care, psychiatric support after the ICU experience, and better conflict prevention and resolution are potential targets for improvement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Care*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric