Open Access Open Badges Research article

Changes in elderly women's health-related quality of life following discontinuation of hormone replacement therapy

Debra A Heller12*, Carol H Gold2, Frank M Ahern2, Kristine E Pringle1, Theresa V Brown3 and Margaret R Glessner1

Author Affiliations

1 First Health Services/The PACE Program, 4000 Crums Mill Road, Suite 301, Harrisburg, PA 17112 USA

2 Department of Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University, 315 East Health and Human Development, University Park, PA 16802 USA

3 Pennsylvania Department of Aging/The PACE Program, 555 Walnut Street, 5th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17101 USA

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BMC Women's Health 2005, 5:7  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-5-7

Published: 16 May 2005



Many women have discontinued hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in view of recent findings. The goal of this study was to determine if HRT discontinuation is associated with changes in health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in elderly women.


We studied women enrolled in Pennsylvania's Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) program, linking prescription claims with data from a longitudinal mail survey. HRQOL measures included the number of days out of the last 30 that physical health was not good and analogous measures for mental health, pain, and interference with activities, as well as a composite "healthy days" measure developed by CDC. Longitudinal analyses focused on 2,357 women who completed surveys in both 2002 and 2003, and who used HRT at baseline (mean age = 75.5, range = 65–102). Propensity scores were used to match HRT continuers and discontinuers according to HRT type, demographics, and baseline HRQOL. Analysis of covariance was used to compare HRQOL change in continuers and discontinuers.


Between 2002 and 2003, 43% of HRT users discontinued therapy. Analysis of covariance to examine HRQOL change revealed complex interactions with age. Discontinuers aged 65–74 reported greater increases in days in which mental health was not good (p < .05), fewer "healthy days" (p < .05), more days in which health interfered with activities (p < .01), and more days with pain (p < .01). Among women aged 75–84, HRT discontinuers reported more days in which physical health was not good (p < .01); no other significant effects were observed in this group. Relative to HRT continuers, discontinuers aged 85 and older experienced apparent HRQOL improvements following cessation, with fewer days in which physical health was not good (p < .01), fewer days of poor mental health (p < .05), and more "healthy days" (p < .01).


These results suggest that there are substantial age differences in response to HRT discontinuation. While women aged 65–74 experienced apparent declines in HRQOL following HRT cessation, women aged 85 and older experienced relative improvements. The HRQOL declines observed among younger women underscore the importance of communication between clinicians and patients throughout the discontinuation process. These results also demonstrate the value of HRQOL surveillance as a component of health program administration.