Racial Differences in Health-Related Quality of Life Among Hemodialysis Patients

Published in: Kidney International, v. 65, no. 4, Apr. 2004, p. 1482-1491

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Mark Unruh, Dana Miskulin, Guofen Yan, Ron D. Hays, Robert Benz, John W. Kusek, Klemens B. Meyer

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BACKGROUND: Despite technical progress in therapy, hemodialysis patients continue to report health-related quality of life (HRQOL) substantially lower than that of the general population. While African Americans with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) survive longer than members of other races, few studies have compared the HRQOL of African Americans with that of non-African Americans. METHODS: The authors examined differences in sociodemographic, clinical, and HRQOL variables by race. A multiple regression model assessed the extent to which race was associated with differences in HRQOL scores after adjustment for sociodemographic and clinical variables. Racial differences in the relationship between comorbid disease severity and HRQOL were explored. RESULTS: In adjusted models, African Americans had higher scores in the Index of Well-Being and burden of kidney disease, but lower scores in cognitive function (all P < 0.05). For scales reflecting symptoms and effects of kidney disease, sleep quality, and the Physical Component Summary, the fall in HRQOL with increasing comorbidity was significantly greater in non-African Americans (all P < 0.05). After adjustment, there were no racial differences in scores on the Mental Component Summary, social support, dialysis staff encouragement, or patient satisfaction. CONCLUSION: To our knowledge, ESRD is the only chronic illness for which African Americans report significantly better psychologic well being and a lower burden of disease than non-African Americans. Further research is needed to understand whether these experiences affect health care utilization, medical decision making, and patient survival. Clarification of the reasons for race differences may suggest measures to improve HRQOL for all patients with ESRD.

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