What predicts short and long term quality of life after spinal cord injury?

Doctor Reviewing Spine Vertebrae Model

Quality of life describes a person's sense of satisfaction in life and the ability to enjoy normal activities. Spinal cord injury may have tremendous impact on a person's quality of life in general, and the specific factors that contribute most to quality of life were not previously well known. Additionally, it was not known if a person's perception of quality of life after the injury changed over time.

Canadian researchers recently conducted a long-term study of quality of life in spinal cord injury survivors. They found a number of factors that significantly predicted the ability to enjoy normal activities: 1) health competence, which describes the ability to find solutions for medical issues such as pain or stress; 2) participation factors, which describe a person's habits such as nutrition, personal care, or education; and 3) environmental factors, such as physical accessibility, assistive technology, or social support from family and friends.

Although the general perception of quality of life did not change over the long-term, there were two specific factors that predicted short- and long-term quality of life. Mood state (feelings of depression, anxiety, tension, etc) was a significant factor in the few months after the injury, but not in the long term. Family support was not a significant factor of quality of life in the short term, but became significant many months after the injury.

The researchers suggested that, in order to support satisfactory quality of life, interventions should address providing better social support, addressing negative mood states, and improving access to solutions for medical issues.

Mortenson WB, Noreau L, & Miller WC. The relationship between and predictors of quality of life after spinal cord injury at 3 and 15 months after discharge. Spinal Cord. (January 2010).