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Age Ageing. 2006 May;35(3):273-9.

Relationships between long-term stroke disability, handicap and health-related quality of life.

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Department of Public Health Sciences, Guy's, King's & St. Thomas' School of Medicine, King's College London, UK.



To estimate levels of disability, handicap and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) up to 3 years after stroke and examine the relationships between these domains.


A longitudinal, observational study


Population-based register of first-ever strokes


Subjects, registered between 1 January 1995 and 31 December 1997, were assessed at 1 year (n = 490) and 3 years (n = 342) post-stroke for disability [Barthel index (BI)], handicap [Frenchay activity index (FAI)] and HRQOL (SF-36). BI was categorised as severe, moderate, mild and independent (0-9, 10-14, 15-19 and 20); FAI was categorised as inactive, moderately active and very active (0-15, 16-30 and 31-45). SF-36 domains include: Physical Functioning (PF), Role Physical (RP), Bodily Pain (BP), General Health (GH), Vitality (VT), Social Functioning (SF), Role Emotional (RE) and Mental Health (MH). Physical (PHSS) and Mental Health (MHSS) Summary Scores were computed.


at 1 and 3 years, 26.1 and 26.3%, respectively, were disabled (BI < 15); 55 and 51%, respectively, were handicapped (FAI = 0-15); and survivors had low mean PHSS (37.1 and 37.9), but satisfactory mean MHSS (46.6 and 47.7). There was a graded positive relationship between all SF-36 domains and the categories of BI and FAI. Spearman rank correlations were significant between BI and all SF-36 domains at both time points: strong (r > 0.70) with PF, moderate (r = 0.31-0.70) with RP, SF and PHSS, but weak (r < 0.30) with other domains. Correlations between FAI and SF-36 domains were strong with PF, weak with BP, RE and MHSS, and moderate with other domains.


Disability and handicap remain highly prevalent up to 3 years after stroke. Patients' perception of physical health is persistently low, but mental health perception is satisfactory up to 3 years. Due to variable correlations between different HRQOL domains with disability and handicap, it is suggested that disability, handicap and HRQOL should all be assessed to acquire a broader measure of stroke outcome.

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