Quality of life measures show some promise in measuring subjective states in people with learning disabilities


Services for people with learning disabilities will be subject to external scrutiny to ensure they are meeting minimum standards of care delivery and will also have internal quality assurance processes to look at the quality of the support they provide, The key question however, particularly in a situation where an individual may be getting support from a variety of sources, is what impact these things, and others, are having on the overall quality of life of a person.

The researchers in this Spanish study were interested in looking at the psychometric properties of tools used to measure quality of life, working with 99 people receiving support from four services in Spain. They looked at the SWLS and the WHOQOL-BREF
The SWLS is a short 5-item instrument designed to measure global cognitive judgments of life satisfaction which can be completed in about a minute. The respondent agrees or disagrees with a set of statements using a 1-7 scale.

The WHO Quality of Life-BREF (WHOQOL-BREF) is a tool developed by the he World Health Organisation Quality of Life project which sought to develop an international cross-culturally comparable quality of life assessment instrument. The tool assesses an individual’s perceptions in the context of their culture and value systems, and their personal goals, standards and concerns and has 26 items which measure physical health, psychological health, social relationships, and environment. The ‘BREF’ is a shortened version often used in large research studies or clinical trials.

What they found was that people with learning disabitiies in their study were satisfied with their life on the SWLS, achieving scores of 25–29. and that tests to look at Internal consistency and the pwer of associations between the tests were satisfactory.

The ‘known group’ differences, they could confirm suggested that people were living in residential institutions had lower life satisfaction when compared to those living in community facilities or living at home, although these differences were not found to be statistically significant.

They conclude from their investigation that the psychometric properties of the Satisfaction with Life Scale were acceptable, and that this suggests that subjective states should be assessed in people with learning disabilities when attempting to measure overall quality of life. They suggest that policy makers need to take self reported information gathered in this was into consideration when developing interventions and broader policies to support people with learning disabilities. .

Life satisfaction in persons with Intellectual Disabilities, Lucas-Carrasco R & Salvador-Carulla S, in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33,4, 1103-1109

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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