Quality of Life Research

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1251–1261

Comparing SF-36 scores across three groups of women with different health profiles


    • Center on Outcomes, Research and Education (CORE)Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute
  • Mary N. Haan
    • Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of Michigan
  • Richard A. Levine
    • Department of Mathematics and StatisticsSan Diego State University
  • Ellen B. Gold
    • Department of Epidemiology and Preventive MedicineUniversity of California at Davis

DOI: 10.1007/s11136-004-6673-8

Cite this article as:
Yost, K.J., Haan, M.N., Levine, R.A. et al. Qual Life Res (2005) 14: 1251. doi:10.1007/s11136-004-6673-8


Background: The widespread use of the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) facilitates the comparison of health-related quality of life (HRQL) across independent studies. Objectives: To compare the scores of eight scales and two summary scales of the SF-36 across participants in the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) trial, the Women’s Health Initiative-Dietary Modification trial (WHI-DM), and the MOS, and to illustrate the use of effect sizes for interpreting the importance of group differences. Methods: WHEL and WHI-DM are both multi-center dietary interventions; only data from the UC Davis sites were used in our study. WHEL participants had a recent history of breast cancer, WHI-DM participants were healthy, postmenopausal women, and women in the MOS had a history of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, or depression. General linear models were used to identify statistically significant differences in scale scores. Meaningful differences were determined by effect sizes computed using a common within-group standard deviation (SD) and SDs from normative data. Results: After adjusting for age and marital status, SF-36 scores for the WHI-DM and WHEL samples were similar and both had statistically significantly higher scores than the MOS sample. Relative to the WHEL or WHI-DM studies, MOS scores for scales related to the physical domain were clearly meaningfully lower whereas scale scores related to the mental health domain were potentially meaningfully lower. Conclusions: The HRQL of breast cancer survivors is comparable to that of healthy women and better than that of women with chronic health conditions, particularly with respect to physical health. This study illustrated the use of ranges of effects sizes for aiding the interpretation of SF-36 scores differences across independent studies.


Breast cancerEffect sizesMeaningful differenceQuality of lifeSF-36



analysis of covariance


health-related quality of life


multivariate analysis of covariance


mental component summary scale


Medical Outcomes Study


physical component summary scale


36-item short-form health survey


standard deviation


Women’s Healthy Eating and Living trial


Women’s Health Initiative-Dietary Modification trial

Copyright information

© Springer 2005