Health values of the seriously ill. SUPPORT investigators

Ann Intern Med. 1995 Apr 1;122(7):514-20. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-122-7-199504010-00007.


Objective: To assess 1) the health values and health ratings of seriously ill hospitalized patients, their surrogate decision makers, and their physicians; 2) the determinants of health values; and 3) whether health values change over time.

Design: Prospective, longitudinal, multicenter study.

Setting: 5 academic medical centers.

Participants: 1438 seriously ill patients with at least one of nine diseases who had a projected overall 6-month mortality rate of 50%; their surrogates; and their physicians.

Measurements: Time-tradeoff utilities (reflecting preferences for a shorter but healthy life) and health ratings.

Results: At study day 3, patients had a mean time-tradeoff utility of 0.73 +/- 0.32 (median [25th, 75th percentile], 0.92 [0.63, 1.0]), indicating that they equated living 1 year in their current state of health with living 8.8 months in excellent health. However, scores varied widely; 34.8% of patients were unwilling to exchange any time in their current state of health for a shorter life in excellent health (utility, 1.0), and 9.0% were willing to live 2 weeks or less in excellent health rather than 1 year in their current state of health (utility, 0.04). Health rating scores averaged 57.8 +/- 24.0 (median [25th percentile, 75th percentile], 60 [50, 75]) on a scale of 0 (death) to 100 (perfect health). The patients' mean time-tradeoff score exceeded that of their paired surrogates (n = 1041) by 0.08 (P < 0.0001). Time-tradeoff scores were related to psychosocial well-being; health ratings; desire for resuscitation and extension of life rather than relief of pain and discomfort; degree of willingness to live with constant pain; and perceived prognosis for survival and independent functioning. Scores of surviving patients increased by an average of 0.06 after 2 months (P < 0.0001) and 0.08 after 6 months (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Health values of seriously ill patients vary widely, are higher than patients' surrogates believe, are related to few other preference and health status measures, and increase over time.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Critical Illness / psychology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Resource Allocation
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Values*
  • Time Factors
  • Withholding Treatment