A moderate problem on at least one dimension was reported by 42% of respondents, whereas only 6% of respondents reported any extreme problem (table ). Problems were most often recorded in the pain or discomfort dimension. In subsequent analyses, moderate and extreme categories of each dimension were combined.
Numbers (percentages) of respondents reporting a problem in each EuroQoL dimension
The mean state of health recorded on the visual analogue scale was 82.5 (SD 17).
Health and age
The rates of reported problems increased significantly with age (P<0.001) for all dimensions (table ); an exception to this general pattern was the anxiety/depression dimension, which peaked at 28% of respondents aged 60 to 69 and then decreased slightly.
Numbers (percentages) of respondents reporting any problem, by age group and sex
Figure shows the mean visual analogue scale values for each age group and the 95% confidence interval. The mean value decreased from about 87 in the youngest age group to 72 in the oldest age group. Mean values did not differ significantly in the 20 to 49 age range but decreased significantly for respondents aged
Figure 1 Mean self rated health status of respondents
Health and sex
70 tended to report higher rates of problems than did men of the same age (table ). A systematic difference in rates was found across all age groups on the anxiety/depression dimension, with women reporting significantly higher rates than men (P<0.05). No significant differences were found in the visual analogue scale scores for men and women.
Health and marital status
Respondents who were widowed, separated, or divorced reported significantly more problems on all five dimensions (P<0.001). Scores on the visual analogue scale for this group were also significantly lower than for respondents living alone or for those with a partner (means 77, 84, and 84 respectively, P<0.001).
Health and social class
After the effects of age were controlled for, there were significant differences in the rates of reported problems when respondents were grouped according to social class (table ).
Numbers (percentages) of respondents reporting any problem, by age group and social class (based on respondent’s own current or most recent occupation as classified by registrar general)
Rates of reported problems from respondents in social classes III and IV were between 20% and 120% higher than rates in respondents from social classes I and II; the largest differences were for the pain/discomfort (P<0.01) and anxiety/depression (P<0.01) dimensions. Rates did not differ significantly for the mobility and self care dimensions. Figure shows that respondents from social classes I and II had consistently higher levels of reported health as measured by the visual analogue scale than respondents from the two other social classes. Respondents from social classes I and II had a 5 point advantage on the visual analogue scale over respondents from social classes IV and V of the same age group. The difference was significant for all age groups except for respondents aged 40 to 49 years. The mean scores on the visual analogue scale for respondents from social classes I and II remained above the level of the youngest respondents from social classes IV and V until the 50 to 59 age group.
Effect of social class on self rated health status. *P<0.05; **P<0.01; ***P<0.001
Health and education
When respondents were classified by education rather than by social class, a similar pattern of differences emerged. Respondents who had received higher or further education reported significantly lower rates of problems with mobility (P<0.05), usual activities (P<0.05), pain/discomfort (P<0.01), and anxiety/depression (P<0.01) than did those who had received no education after leaving school. A similar pattern was seen on the visual analogue scale, with significantly higher scores reported for those who had received higher or further education (P<0.001).
Health and economic status
Significantly higher rates of problems were reported by respondents who were unemployed, sick or disabled, or retired, compared with those in employment or full time education (P<0.001) (table ). Rates of reported problems for unemployed people were almost twice those of respondents in a salaried job.
Numbers (percentages) of respondents reporting problems, by employment
When respondents were grouped according to housing tenure, significantly higher rates of problems were recorded on all the dimensions for those living in rented property compared with owner occupiers.
The mean scores on the visual analogue scale of people in work or of people who were studying was significantly higher than for people who were unemployed (87.5 and 82.0 respectively, P<0.001). Similarly, the scores of owner occupiers were significantly higher than for people who rented their accommodation (85.1 and 77.2 respectively, P<0.001).
Health and smoking behaviour
Respondents who smoked reported significantly higher rates of problems than non-smokers on all dimensions. Non-smokers also recorded significantly higher scores on the visual analogue scale than respondents who smoked (83.4 and 80.4 respectively, P<0.001).
Analysis of variance
Analysis of variance was used to investigate the collective influence of background variables. With the score on the visual analogue scale as the dependent variable and age as a covariate, a main effects model indicated a significant contribution for education (P<0.01), employment (P<0.001), and smoking behaviour (P<0.001). Housing tenure, marital status, and social class were not significant variables in this model.
Disability rates from other national surveys
Respondents who reported any problem in any dimension could be distinguished from respondents who reported no problems whatsoever. This dichotomy can be used to form an arbitrary definition of disability, enabling data to be compared with the findings of other surveys. The general household survey incorporates questions on longstanding illness and recent interference with usual activities.19
The responses to these questions are combined to give rates of limiting longstanding illness which are published annually. The disability survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys conducted in 1985 included a questionnaire comprising 10 categories: locomotion, reaching and stretching, dexterity, seeing, hearing, personal care, continence, communication, behaviour, and intellectual functioning.20
The rates of disability in people grouped into five year age groups were reported in this survey.20
These data were plotted against disability rates determined from our survey (fig ). Disability rates based on responses to the EQ-5D questionnaire were 20% to 25% higher than rates from the general household survey for all age groups and about 30% to 40% higher than the 1985 disability survey, until the age of 80.
Disability rates from three national surveys