, Volume 72, Issue 1, pp 1-50

Determinants of Health and the Quality of Life in the Bella Coola Valley

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Abstract

The aim of this investigation is to obtain some baseline self-reported data on the health status and overall quality of life of all residents of the Bella Coola Valley of British Columbia aged 17 years or older, and to measure the impact of a set of designated health determinants on their health and quality of life. In the period from August to November 2001, a variety of procedures were used to ensure that all eligible residents of the Valley received a copy of our questionnaire, and 687 useable questionnaires were obtained for our working dataset. Health status was measured by SF-36 and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control healthy days items. Thirty-one items were used to measure the Provincial Health Officer’s designated determinants of health in four clusters, namely, biological, social and economic, health behaviours and health services determinants. Quality of life was measured by satisfaction levels in 13 specific domains of life (e.g., family, financial security), four global items (e.g., happiness, life satisfaction) and one global Subjective Well-Being Index. Besides obtaining baseline figures on all our measures for the Valley, we made some comparisons among our figures and those from other areas, e.g., Prince George, BC. Most of the measures indicated that the health status and quality of life of Bella Coola Valley residents were lower than those of Prince George residents. For the sample as a whole, SF-36 scores on the eight dimensions ran from 82.3 (physical functioning) to 50.0 (social functioning), with a mean of 62.7. Residents in the Valley averaged 6.5 days in the past 30 in which their health was physically not good, 5.5 days when it was mentally not good and 4.1 days when their health limited their usual daily activities. Eleven percent of respondents described their general health as “excellent” and another 27% said it was “very good”. On a 7-point scale from 1=very dissatisfied to 7=very satisfied, respondents had average life satisfaction and satisfaction with the overall quality of life scores of 5.5. For specific domains of life, the lowest mean level of satisfaction was reported for federal and provincial government officials (3.3) and the highest was reported for living partners and personal safety around home (5.8). Regarding bivariate relations, each of the eight dimensions of SF-36 was significantly correlated with a single item measure of general health, and five of the eight were significantly correlated with the number of good health days. Happiness and the Subjective Well-Being Index were positively but moderately correlated with six of the eight dimensions, and life satisfaction was positively correlated with five. Age was negatively related to general health, but positively related to life satisfaction. Not being of aboriginal descent was positively related to all of the four global health indicators and to the Subjective Well-Being Index. Education was positively related to the four global health measures but not to the three global quality of life measures. The Social Support and Good Family Indexes were positively related to all seven global measures. There was a positive correlation between six of the seven global measures and the frequency with which respondents participated in activities sponsored by voluntary organizations. Frequency of smoking was negatively associated with every global dependent variable except the Physical Health Index. Frequency of skipping meals was negatively associated and average hours of sleep per night was positively associated with all seven global measures. Turning to multivariate relationships, the four clusters of health determinants explained from 12% (SF-36 Mental Health Index) to 24% (general health) of the variance in the dependent global health variables, and from 20% (happiness) to 26% (Subjective Well-Being Index) of the variance in the dependent global quality of life variables. Adding domain satisfaction scores to the total set of predictors allowed us to explain from 20% (SF-36 Mental health Index) to 29% (general health) of the variance in the dependent global health variables, and from 39% (happiness) to 62% (life satisfaction) in the dependent global quality of life variables. By including measures of social support and good family relationships in our set of health determinants, we practically guaranteed that the latter would be relatively strongly predictive of global quality of life.