Quality of Life Research

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 751-770

Measuring health-related quality of life for persons with mobility impairments: an enabled version of the short-form 36 (SF-36E)

  • Katherine Froehlich-GrobeAffiliated withGerontology Center, The University of Kansas Email author 
  • , Elena M. AndresenAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Biostatics, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida
  • , Charlene CaburnayAffiliated withSaint Louis University School of Public Health
  • , Glen W. WhiteAffiliated withResearch and Training Center on Independent Living, The University of Kansas

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Examine psychometric properties of the SF-36 and SF-36E for mobility-impaired individuals and assess whether the SF-36E yields higher health-related quality-of-life scores.


We altered the SF-36 Physical Function scale by substituting the word “go” for “walk” and “climb” and changed the stem to reflect function using assistive devices. We compared responses between versions for 201 individuals with disabilities (n = 95 wheelchair users, n = 48 other device users, 58 = no device users).


Both surveys yielded reliable scores, but floor and ceiling effects occurred with both versions. Confirmatory factor analyses demonstrate good fit for the SF-36 and SF36E, but were compromised by low sample size. Respondents demonstrated significantly better Role Physical, Bodily Pain, and Vitality on the SF-36E, but worse General Health.


The World Health Organization framework, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) suggests that it is important to know both what one can do without assistance (capacity) and what one can do with assistance (performance). Results suggest that the SF-36E successfully measures performance among mobility-impaired individuals, including wheelchair users. However, further validation studies of the SF-36 and SF-36E are warranted with samples of individuals with disabilities.


SF-36 Disabled persons Health status Health surveys Bias Reproducibility of results Quality of life