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Open Access Research article

The independent contribution of executive functions to health related quality of life in older women

Jennifer C Davis13, Carlo A Marra23, Mehdi Najafzadeh3 and Teresa Liu-Ambrose1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Hip Health & Mobility, University of British Columbia & Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI), 301-2647 Willow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Z 3P1, Canada

2 Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

3 Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, St Paul's Hospital, 620B 1081 Burrard Street, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6Z 1Y6, Canada

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:16  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-16

Published: 1 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Cognition is a multidimensional construct and to our knowledge, no previous studies have examined the independent contribution of specific domains of cognition to health related quality of life. To determine whether executive functions are independently associated with health related quality of life assessed using Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) calculated from the EuroQol EQ-5D (EQ-5D) in older women after adjusting for known covariates, including global cognition. Therefore, we conducted a secondary analysis of community-dwelling older women aged 65-75 years who participated in a 12-month randomized controlled trial of resistance training. We assessed global cognition using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and executive functions using the: 1) Stroop Test; 2) Trail Making Test (Part B) and 3) Digits Verbal Span Backwards Test. We calculated QALYs from the EQ-5D administered at baseline, 6 months and 12 months.

Results

Our multivariate linear regression model demonstrated the specific executive processes of set shifting and working memory, as measured by Trail Making Test (Part B) and Digits Verbal Span Backward Test (p < 0.01) respectively, were independently associated with QALYs after accounting for age, comorbidities, general mobility, and global cognition. The final model explained 50% of the variation in QALYs.

Conclusions

Our study highlights the specific executive processes of set shifting and working memory were independently associated with QALYs -- a measure of health related quality of life. Given that executive functions explain variability in QALYs, clinicians may need to consider assessing executive functions when measuring health related quality of life. Further, the EQ-5D may be used to track changes in health status over time and serve as a screening tool for clinicians.

Trial Registration

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00426881.