Psychological distress and quality of life in long-term social assistance recipients compared to the Norwegian population

Scand J Public Health. 2011 May;39(3):303-11. doi: 10.1177/1403494811401475. Epub 2011 Mar 15.


Aims: Mental disorders are serious public health problems and mental disorders have an impact on individuals' health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate for differences in psychological distress and HRQoL outcomes between long-term social assistance recipients (LTRs) and the general population in Norway. In addition, differences in HRQoL outcomes were evaluated in LTRs and general population who reported clinically meaningful levels of psychological distress.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, which is part of a larger study that evaluated the health and functional abilities of LTRs in Norway, 393 LTRs were compared to a similar aged group (n = 3919) from the general population. Psychological distress was measured using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist.

Results: LTRs were significantly younger (p < 0.001), more likely to be male (p = 0.001), more likely to be never married or divorced (p < 0.001), and have less education (p < 0.001) than members of the general population. LTRs reported significantly higher total mean psychological distress scores than the general population. More LTRs (57.0%) than general population (10.1%; p < 0.001) reported clinically meaningful levels of psychological distress. LTRs with a psychological distress score >1.85 reported lower mental component scores on the SF-12 than general population.

Conclusions: In the total sample, LTRs experienced more psychological distress and reported poorer HRQoL than the general population. Clinically meaningful levels of psychological distress occurred more frequently in LTRs than general population. The LTRs and the general population with psychological distress rated both the physical and mental components of HRQoL lower than LTRs and general population without psychological distress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Public Assistance*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stress, Psychological* / diagnosis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors