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					HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY                               OF    LIFE AMONG MINORITY POPULATIONS IN THE UNITED
                                                                                STATES, BRFSS 2001–2002

Objective: Improving quality of life is one of                                       .
                                                                            Pranesh P Chowdhury, MBBS, MPH; Lina Balluz, ScD;
the goals of the Healthy People 2010 objec-                                                             Tara W. Strine, MPH
tives. Health-related quality of life (HRQOL)
measures can be used to indicate unmet
health needs and identify health disparity in
population subgroups.                                     INTRODUCTION                                     ty and often lack health-care coverage.5
                                                                                                           Persons with diabetes and mental dis-
Setting and Participants: Data were gathered                  According to the World Health                tress are more likely than those without
from the 2001–2002 Behavioral Risk Factor                                                                  mental distress to have a poor cardio-
                                                          Organization (WHO) in 1984 ‘‘Health
Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state based
                                                          is a state of complete physical, mental,         vascular risk factor profile.6 People with
annual random-digit-dialed telephone survey
of non-institutional adults aged $18 years.               and social well-being-not merely absent          pain-related activity difficulty7 or peo-
                                                          of disease or infirmity.’’ Traditional           ple with frequent sleep insufficiency8 are
Methods: The 4-items Healthy Days questions               mortality and morbidity measures do              more likely to have poor health behav-
and the 5-item Health Days Symptoms ques-                                                                  iors and worse health-related quality of
                                                          not adequately measure dysfunction and
tions were compared among non-Hispanic
                                                          disability associated with disease, illness      life. Few public health studies have
Whites (White), non-Hispanic Blacks (Black),
non-Hispanic Asians (Asian), non-Hispanic                 or health problems1.Quality of life              examined HRQOL measures by race/
American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) and               measures are added to those traditional          ethnic groups and most of these studies
Hispanics. Logistic regression models were                measures to develop a composite mea-             concentrated on only one measure of
constructed to evaluate racial/ethnic differenc-          sure of health. Quality of life is a             HRQOL. With an emphasis on elimi-
es in HRQOL measures after adjusting for
                                                          subjective overall sense of well-being.          nating health disparities by 2010 and
confounding factors.
                                                          Healthy People 2010 identified quality           increasing race/ethnic diversity in the
Results: After adjusting for confounders,                 of life improvement as a central public          US population,9 it is increasingly im-
Blacks were 40%, AIANs were 80%, and                      health goal.2 The measures of Health-            portant to examine differences in
Hispanics were twice as likely to report fair             Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) can              HRQOL of minority populations. To
or poor general health than Whites. Asians
                                                          demonstrate the impact of quality of life        our knowledge there have been no
were less likely and AIANs were more likely to
report frequent physical distress, mental dis-            on health.1 These measures are designed          national population-based US studies
tress, and activity limitations. After controlling        to determine perceived physical health,          examining the differences in HRQOL
for confounders, there were no racial or ethnic           mental health, and function3,4 and are           indicators by race or ethnicity, particu-
differences in the prevalence of frequent                 useful for finding unmet health needs,           larly after controlling for confounders.
depressive symptoms; however, Blacks, His-
                                                          determining the burden of preventable            The purpose of our study was to
panics, and Asians were less likely to report
frequent pain, frequent anxiety symptom, and              disease, injuries, and disability, and           compare the White, Non-Hispanics
frequent sleep insufficiency than Whites.                 identifying disparity in population sub-         (White) with Black non-Hispanic
Blacks, Asians, and AIANs were equally likely             groups.                                          (Black), Asian non-Hispanic (Asian),
to report infrequent vitality as Whites.                      HRQOL is related to both self-               American Indian or Alaska Native
                                                          reported chronic diseases and their risk         non-Hispanic (AIAN), and Hispanic
Conclusions: Mental health status has a larger
impact on health in certain race/ethnic groups.
                                                          factors.1 Persons reporting frequent             on nine indicators of HRQOL using
More public health efforts should address the             mental distress have been found to have          data from Behavioral Risk Factor Sur-
mental health needs of Blacks, Hispanics, and             a higher prevalence of smoking, heavy            veillance System (BRFSS).
AIANs. (Ethn Dis. 2008;18:483–487)                        drinking, physical inactivity, and obesi-
Key Words: BRFSS, Health Behavior, Eth-
nicity                                                                                                     METHODS
                                                              Address correspondence and reprint
                                                          requests to Pranesh P. Chowdhury, MBBS,
                                                                                                              The BRFSS is a state-based, annual
                                                          MPH; Centers for Disease Control and
                                                          Prevention; 4770 Buford Highway NE; MS           random-digit-dialed telephone survey of
                                                          E-65; Atlanta, GA 30341; 678-530-8931;           non-institutionalized adults $18 years
                                                          678-530-9958 (fax); pchowdhury@cdc.gov           of age throughout the United States,
                                                                                                           District of Columbia (DC), Guam,
    From the Behavioral Surveillance                         Disclaimer: The findings and conclu-
                                                                                                           Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Is-
Branch, Division of Adult and Community                   sions in this article are those of the authors
Health, Centers for Disease Control and                   and do not necessarily represent the views       lands.10 The primary focus of BRFSS is
Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia (PPC, LB,                    of the Centers for Disease Control and           to monitor health behaviors, health
TWS)                                                      Prevention.                                      conditions and preventive services that

                                                      Ethnicity & Disease, Volume 18, Autumn 2008                                                483
HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE AMONG MINORITIES - Chowdhury et al

                                              ulations, languages, and settings.14 We         into ,14 days (infrequent) and
With an emphasis on                           examined four-item Healthy Days core            $14 days (frequent) unhealthy days
                                              questions (referred to as core question)        for each question.5,8,15
eliminating health disparities                and the five-item Healthy Days Symp-                The demographic factors included
by 2010 and increasing race/                  toms module questions (referred to as           were sex, education, marital status, and
                                              module question). We used 2001 data             age. Education had four levels: not a
ethnic diversity in the US                    for the core questions and combined             high school graduate, high school
population,9 it is increasingly               2001 and 2002 BRFSS data for the item           graduate, some college/technical college,
                                              module questions.                               and college graduate. Marital status
important to examine                              The first core question asked re-           contained three levels: married (ie,
                                              spondents to rate their general health on       married, member of an unmarried
differences in HRQOL of                       a scale from excellent to poor. General         couple), previously married (ie, di-
minority populations.                         health was dichotomized into good               vorced, widowed, separated), and never
                                              health (excellent, very good, or good           married. Age had three categories: 18–
                                              health) and fair or poor health. The            44 years, 45–64 years, and 65 or more
                                              remaining three core questions and all          years. Respondents who did not have
are linked with the leading causes of
                                              five module questions asked about self-         any health plan (including health insur-
death and injury.10 Trained interviewers
                                              reported health in the past 30 days. The        ance, prepaid plans such as HMOs, or
administer the survey to an independent
                                              remaining core questions were: a) now           government plans such as Medicare)
probability sample of adults $18 years
                                              thinking about your physical health,            were considered not to have a health
of age in households with telephones.
                                              which includes physical illness or injury,      plan.
Each sample is weighted to the respon-
                                              for how many days during the past                   Race/ethnicity had five categories:
dent’s probability of selection and to the
                                              30 days was your physical health not            White non-Hispanic, Black non-His-
age- and sex-specific population or age-,
sex-, and race-specific population of         good? (physical distress); b) now think-        panic, Asian non-Hispanic, American
each state.10 The BRFSS questionnaire         ing about your mental health, which             Indian or Alaska Native non-Hispanic,
consists of three parts: 1) core questions;   includes stress, depression, and prob-          and Hispanic. Respondents who report-
2) optional supplemental modules,             lems with emotions, for how many days           ed that they were Hispanic or Latino
which are sets of questions on specific       during the past 30 days was your mental         were classified as Hispanic. Respondents
topics (eg, diabetes, healthy days symp-      health not good? (mental distress); and         who did not classify themselves as
tom, arthritis); and 3) state-added           c) during the past 30 days, for about           Hispanic and then reported themselves
questions. All 50 states, DC, Guam,           how many days did poor physical or              to be White, Black, Asian, and AIAN
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands ask       mental health keep you from doing your          were classified as White non-Hispanic,
the same core questions but module and        usual activities, such as self-care, work,      Black non-Hispanic, Asian non-Hispan-
state-added questions are used at the         or recreation? (activity limitation). The       ic and AIAN non-Hispanic respectively.
states’ discretion. Design, random sam-       five module questions were a) during            In this study we will refer to the race/
pling procedures, and validation of the       the past 30 days, for about how many            ethnic groups as White, Black, Hispan-
BRFSS survey are described in detail          days did pain make it hard for you to do        ic, Asian, and AIAN.
elsewhere.10,11                               your usual activities, such as self-care,           Respondents other than White,
    BRFSS contains HRQOL indicators           work, or recreation? (pain symptom); b)         Black, Asian, AIAN, and Hispanic were
in core and module questions. The             during the past 30 days, for about how          excluded from the analyses. Respon-
HRQOL core questions (Healthy Days)           many days have you felt sad, blue, or           dents who did not answer or refused or
were first added in 1993 and module           depressed? (depressive symptom); c)             answered, ‘‘do not know/not sure,’’ to
questions (Healthy Days Symptoms)             during the past 30 days, for about how          any demographic, race/ethnicity or any
were added during 1995.12 Studies of          many days have you felt worried, tense,         HRQOL questions were also excluded.
non-institutionalized adults indicated        or anxious? (anxiety symptom); d)               We restricted our analyses to persons
that the BRFSS HRQOL measures                 during the past 30 days, for about how          residing in the United States and
had acceptable construct, criterion, and      many days have you felt you did not get         District of Columbia (DC). All the
known-groups validity.13 When com-            enough rest or sleep? (sleep impair-            states and DC asked core Healthy Days
pared with the Medical Outcomes               ment); and e) during the past 30 days,          questions in 2001; after all exclusions,
Study Short Form 36 (SF-36), HRQOL            for about how many days have you felt           187,336 responses were available for
measures were shown to have good              very healthy and full of energy? (vital-        analyses. Only 23 states and DC asked
measurement properties in several pop-        ity). Respondents were dichotomized             the module questions in 2001 and

484                                             Ethnicity & Disease, Volume 18, Autumn 2008
                                                        HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE AMONG MINORITIES - Chowdhury et al

Table 1. Healthy days (core questions) indices by race/ethnicity, BRFSS 2001

                                    White-NH              Black non-Hispanic         Asian non-Hispanic   AIAN* non-Hispanic         Hispanic
                                     n=153290                    n=14937                   n=3842               n=2931               n=12336
Fair/poor general health
% (95% CI)                        12.6 (12.3–12.8)         18.0 (17.0–19.0)            8.5 (6.8–10.5)      23.5 (20.0–27.4)       24.7 (23.3–26.2)
UOR (95% CI)3                         Referent             1.52 (1.42–1.63)           0.65 (0.51–0.82)     2.14 (1.74–2.64)       2.29 (2.11–2.48)
AOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             1.40 (1.29–1.51)           1.13 (0.87–1.46)     1.82 (1.46–2.26)       1.92 (1.76–2.10)
Frequent physical distress
% (95% CI)                         9.9 (9.7–10.2)          10.6 (9.9–11.5)             4.7 (3.5–6.3)       18.0 (14.9–21.6)       10.5 (9.5–11.6)
UOR (95% CI)3                         Referent             1.08 (0.99–1.18)           0.44 (0.32–0.61)     1.99 (1.59–2.50)       1.06 (0.94–1.19)
AOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             0.99 (0.90–1.09)           0.68 (0.49–0.95)     1.79 (1.41–2.26)       0.96 (0.85–1.08)
Frequent mental distress
% (95% CI)                          9.5 (9.3–9.8)          11.2 (10.4–12.0)            5.0 (3.7–6.8)       15.6 (12.9–18.6)       11.1 (10.0–12.3)
UOR (95% CI)3                         Referent             1.20 (1.10–1.31)           0.51 (0.37–0.70)     1.75 (1.41–2.18)       1.19 (1.06–1.34)
AOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             0.93 (0.85–1.02)           0.58 (0.42–0.80)     1.36 (1.09–1.70)       0.87 (0.76–1.00)
Frequent activity limitation
% (95% CI)                          5.7 (5.5–5.9)           7.5 (6.9–8.2)              2.8 (1.9–4.1)       12.0 (9.6–14.9)         6.4 (5.6–7.3)
UOR (95% CI)3                         Referent             1.35 (1.21–1.50)           0.48 (0.33–0.71)     2.25 (1.75–2.90)       1.13 (0.97–1.31)
AOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             1.16 (1.04–1.29)           0.71 (0.48–1.06)     1.86 (1.45–2.39)       0.94 (0.80–1.11)
 * AIAN5 American Indian or Alaska native.
 3 Unadjusted odds ratio.
 4 Adjusted for demographic (sex, education, age, marital status) and health plan.



2002. If a state asked the module                          AIANs (24%), and Blacks (18%), were            pared to White (8%), Black (11%),
questions in both 2001 and 2002, we                        more likely to report fair or poor general     AIAN (11%) and Hispanic (10%)
analyzed data from 2002 only. For                          health compared to Whites (13%) and            populations. After controlling for con-
module HRQOL questions, 15,891 of                          Asians (9%). After adjusting for con-          founding factors, we found no racial
the 103,953 respondents were excluded                      founders, Blacks, AIANs and Hispanics          and ethnic differences in reporting
due to missing data, yielding data from                    reported significantly more fair or poor       frequent depressive symptoms. Asians,
88,062 respondents for analyses.                           general health than Whites.                    Blacks, and Hispanics were significantly
    SUDAAN software (version 9.0.1;                            Our estimates indicate that Asians         less likely to report frequent anxiety
Research Triangle Institute, Research                      were significantly less likely and AIANs       symptoms compared to Whites after
Triangle Park, NC) was used in the                         were significantly more likely to report       controlling for confounders. Asians
analyses to take into account the                          frequent physical distress, frequent           (18%) and Hispanics (21%) were less
complex sample design and to calculate                     mental distress, and frequent activity         likely to report frequent sleep insuffi-
prevalence estimates with 95% confi-                       limitations compared to Whites. Odds           ciency compared to Whites (27%),
dence intervals (CIs), unadjusted odds                     of reporting frequent mental distress          Blacks (28%) and AIANs (30%). After
ratios (OR) and adjusted odds ratios                       were higher among Blacks and Hispan-           adjusting for confounding factors,
(AOR). Logistic regression models were                     ics compared to Whites; however when           Blacks were 12% less likely and His-
constructed to compare Whites with                         we adjusted for confounders, Blacks and        panics and Asian were 43% less likely to
Blacks, Asians, AIANs and Hispanics on                     Hispanics were equally likely to report        report frequent sleep insufficiency com-
each HRQOL measures. The first                             frequent mental distress as Whites.            pared to Whites. Prevalence of infre-
model was unadjusted and the second                        Blacks were more likely to report              quent vitality was similar among race
model was adjusted for demographic                         frequent activity limitations as com-          and ethnic groups. But after controlling
factors (sex, education, age, marital                      pared to Whites.                               for confounders, Hispanics were 20%
status) and healthcare coverage.                               Table 2 displays the responses to          less likely to report infrequent vitality
                                                           five-item module questions by race/            than Whites.
                                                           ethnicity. Blacks, Asians and Hispanics
RESULTS                                                    were significantly less likely to report
                                                           frequent pain than Whites; while               DISCUSSION
   Table 1 shows the four-item                             AIANs were more likely to report pain.
HRQOL core questions by race/ethnic                        Asians (5%) had the lowest prevalence            Our study revealed a wide variation in
groups. In general Hispanics (25%),                        of frequent depressive symptoms com-           HRQOL indices among race and ethnic

                                                         Ethnicity & Disease, Volume 18, Autumn 2008                                            485
HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE AMONG MINORITIES - Chowdhury et al

Table 2. Healthy days symptoms (module questions) indices by race/ethnicity, BRFSS 2001 and 2002*

                                    White-NH             Black-non Hispanic          Asian -non Hispanic    AIAN; non-Hispanic          Hispanic
                                      n=72107                    n=7067                    n=3243                 n=1488                n=4157
Frequent Pain
% (95% CI)                          9.4 (9.0–9.7)           7.5 (6.5–8.7)              3.2 (2.0–5.1)         15.1 (11.7–19.4)        7.3 (5.7–9.2)
UOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             0.79 (0.67–0.93)           0.32 (0.19–0.52)       1.73 (1.28–2.34)       0.76 (0.59–0.98)
AOR (95% CI)1                         Referent             0.75 (0.63–0.88)           0.44 (0.27–0.73)       1.62 (1.19–2.21)       0.67 (0.52–0.87)
Frequent depressive symptoms
% (95% CI)                          7.9 (7.6–8.3)          10.6 (9.3–11.9)             4.6 (3.0–7.0)         11.1 (8.1–15.0)         9.7 (8.0–11.6)
UOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             1.37 (1.19–1.59)           0.57 (0.36–0.88)       1.45 (1.03–2.05)       1.25 (1.01–1.53)
AOR (95% CI)1                         Referent             1.07 (0.92–1.24)           0.72 (0.46–1.12)       1.18 (0.83–1.68)       0.84 (0.67–1.05)
Frequent anxiety symptoms
% (95% CI)                        15.3 (14.8–15.7)         15.0 (13.5–16.5)            9.0 (6.5–12.1)        19.3 (15.3–24.0)       14.1 (12.2–16.2)
UOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             0.98 (0.86–1.11)           0.55 (0.39–0.77)       1.33 (1.00–1.76)       0.91 (0.77–1.08)
AOR (95% CI)1                         Referent             0.81 (0.71–0.92)           0.59 (0.42–0.83)       1.15 (0.86–1.52)       0.66 (0.55–0.78)
Frequent sleep insufficiency
% (95% CI)                        27.1 (26.6–27.7)         27.9 (26.1–29.8)           18.2 (14.9–22.0)       29.7 (24.4–35.6)       21.4 (19.1–23.8)
UOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             1.04 (0.94–1.15)           0.60 (0.47–0.76)       1.13 (0.86–1.48)       0.73 (0.63–0.84)
AOR (95% CI)1                         Referent             0.88 (0.79–0.97)           0.57 (0.45–0.73)       1.03 (0.79–1.35)       0.57 (0.49–0.66)
Infrequent vitality
% (95% CI)                        30.6 (30.0–31.2)         31.3 (29.4–33.3)           30.1 (25.9–34.6)       34.2 (28.5–40.3)       29.2 (26.7–32.0)
UOR (95% CI)4                         Referent             1.03 (0.94–1.14)           0.98 (0.79–1.20)       1.18 (0.90–1.53)       0.94 (0.82–1.07)
AOR (95% CI)1                         Referent             0.93 (0.84–1.02)           1.07 (0.87–1.33)       1.10 (0.84–1.43)       0.80 (0.70–0.92)
 * 5 states in 2001 and 18 states and District of Columbia participated in 2002.
 3 AIAN5 American Indian or Alaska native.
 4 Unadjusted odds ratio.
 1 Adjusted for demographic (sex, education, age, marital status) and health plan.



groups. To our knowledge, our study is                        The amount of disability suffered by           The people from a lower socioeconomic
the first study to examine nine HRQOL                     people with depression and anxiety is              group are known to have lower
indicators among White, Black, Hispan-                    similar to disability suffered from                HRQOL and higher mortality than
ic, Asian, and AIAN. Self-perceived                       chronic medical conditions like hyper-             the general population.21 States com-
health is strongly associated with a                      tension, diabetes and arthritis.17 People          monly use only English or Spanish
person’s objective physical and mental                    with depression are more likely to be              language surveys, persons who speak
health status4 and is an independent                      non-compliant with medical treat-                  another primary language are excluded.
predictor of mortality.16 Our study                       ment.18 Our unadjusted odds ratios                 Only 23 states and DC participated in
indicates that Asians are less likely and                 indicate that Asians are less likely and           the module questions, therefore our
AIANs are more likely to report frequent                  Blacks, AIANs, and Hispanics are more              results are not necessarily representative
physical distress and frequent mental                     likely to report frequent depressive               of the US population. HRQOL mea-
distress than Whites. The relationship is                 symptoms suggesting a greater mental               sures have shown to be valid indicators
reflected in the general health status                    health burden for Blacks, AIANs and                of the perceived burden of common
question, where AIANs are twice as likely                 Hispanics and less burden for Asians.              mental disorders, but they have not yet
and Asians are 35% less likely to report                  Anxiety decreases quality of life and              been tested as a screen for a diagnosable
fair/poor general health than Whites. The                 people with anxiety tend to engage in              mental illness. Finally, as the questions
situation is different in the Black and                   poor health behaviors.19 In keeping                in BRFSS are self-reported, this study is
Hispanic populations. Our unadjusted                      with previous research,20 our study                subject to recall bias.
estimates indicate that Hispanics and                     shows that Blacks and Hispanics are                    Most public health efforts usually
Blacks are equally likely to report physical              significantly less likely to report fre-           target physical health in terms of
distress and more likely to report frequent               quent anxiety symptoms.                            treatment and intervention. Our re-
mental distress than Whites. When we                          Our study has few limitations.                 search suggests that mental health status
look at self-perceived health, both Blacks                BRFSS is a telephone survey and it                 has a larger impact on health in certain
and Hispanics are more likely to report                   may exclude people of lower socioeco-              race/ethnic groups. Therefore, public
fair/poor general health.                                 nomic status who do not have a phone.              health efforts should address the mental

486                                                           Ethnicity & Disease, Volume 18, Autumn 2008
                                                   HEALTH-RELATED QUALITY OF LIFE AMONG MINORITIES - Chowdhury et al

                                                          and healthcare coverage among adults by                   Healthy Days Measures - Population tracking
                                                          frequent mental distress status, 2001.                    of perceived physical and mental health over
Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics                             Am J Prev Med. 2004;26(3):213–216.                        time. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2003;1(1):
were significantly less likely to                    7.   Strine TW, Hootman JM, Chapman DP,
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                                                     8.   Strine TW, Chapman DP. Associations of                    2005;54(4):1–35.
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                                                          quality of life and health behaviors. Sleep Med.          of health status and mortality in middle aged
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   665–672.                                               measures in a statewide sample. Atlanta,            AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
5. Strine TW, Beckles GL, Okoro CA, Balluz L,             Georgia: US Department of Health and                Design concept of study: Chowdhury, Balluz
   Mokdad A. Prevalence of CVD risk factors               Human Services, Public Health Service, Cen-         Acquisition of data: Chowdhury
   among adults with diabetes by mental distress          ters for Disease Control and Prevention,            Data analysis and interpretation: Chowdhury,
   status. Am J Health Behav. 2004;28(5):                 National Center for Chronic Disease Preven-             Balluz, Strine
   464–470.                                               tion and Health Promotion; 1998.                    Manuscript draft: Chowdhury, Strine
6. Strine TW, Balluz L, Chapman DP, Moriarty        14.   Morarity DG, Zack MM, Kobau R. The                  Statistical expertise: Chowdhury, Strine
   DG, Owens M, Mokdad AH. Risk behaviors                 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s        Supervision: Balluz




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