Objective: To investigate the association between balance and quality of life (QOL) in chronic stroke survivors by (1) examining the associations between balance and QOL scores; (2) identifying the frequency of balance impairment and poststroke falls; and (3) determining the differences in QOL scores between persons with and those without balance impairment.
Methods: This is a secondary analysis of a cross-sectional study. People who had a stroke more than 6 months earlier from 3 Midwest states were included in the study if they met the following criteria: were referred to occupational or physical therapy for poststroke physical deficits; had self-reported stroke-related physical deficits; completed all stroke-related rehabilitation; had residual functional disability; had a score of ≥4 out of 6 on the short 6-item Mini-Mental State Examination; and were between 50 and 85 years old (n = 59). The main outcome measures included the Berg Balance Scale (BBS) to assess balance and the Stroke Specific Quality of Life Scale (SS-QOL) to assess QOL. Number of falls since stroke was self-reported.
Results: Mean BBS score was 44 ± 8 and mean SS-QOL score was 46 ± 8; these scores were significantly correlated (r = .394, P = .002). Seventy-six percent of the sample reported a fall since stroke. Persons with balance impairment (BBS score ≤46; n = 29; 49%) had an average BBS score of 39 ± 7 and significantly worse SS-QOL scores than those without balance impairment (42 ± 8 vs 49 ± 7; P = .001).
Conclusion: In the chronic stroke population, balance impairment and fall risk are associated with lower QOL scores. If balance can be improved and maintained into the chronic phases of stroke, it is likely that individuals will benefit with improved QOL.