Testing the measurement properties of the Short Form-36 Health Survey in a frail elderly population

J Clin Epidemiol. 1998 Oct;51(10):827-35. doi: 10.1016/s0895-4356(98)00061-4.


The Short Form-36 Health Survey (SF-36) is a widely used measure of health-related quality of life, however, its suitability for frail older persons is not well documented. This study examines the measurement properties of the SF-36 in a frail older patient population. Patients consecutively admitted to two geriatric services (n = 146) were administered the SF-36 and comparative measures on admission and discharge. Internal consistency (0.75-0.91) and test-retest reliability (0.24-0.80) did not meet standards for clinical application of the tool. Four subscales were moderately correlated with comparative measures (Physical Function 0.53 to -0.76; Bodily Pain -0.61; Vitality -0.58; Mental Health -0.63). The results of effect size, standardized response mean, and relative efficiency statistics were consistent in documenting only minimal change for the SF-36 subscales. The SF-36 appears to be reliable and valid, although its ability to monitor clinical change for frail older patients is questionable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly / psychology*
  • Frail Elderly / statistics & numerical data
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*