BACKGROUND: Patients with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) frequently report to suffer from an impaired Quality of Life (QoL) and growth hormone (GH) substitution is found to improve this. However, the same test may be used for measuring QoL, well-being or health status in different studies. QoL has been defined as the subjective appraisal of one's current life based primarily on psychological function. The most important in the appraisal of well-being is mental function and concerning health status patients evaluate physical function as most important. To differentiate the effects of GH replacement on psychological variables in patients with GHD we carried out a number of meta-analyses, classifying questionnaires into instruments measuring QoL, psychological well-being and health status.
METHODS: We searched the electronic databases PUBMED and PiCarta from 1985 to 2004. Studies were included that evaluated the effect of GH on patient-reported outcomes in adults with GHD (aged 18 years and above). According to generally accepted definitions we classified the questionnaires as instruments measuring QoL, well-being and health status. By means of meta-analyses the average effect size (d) for QoL, well-being and health status was calculated.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Based on open studies GH replacement is found to improve QoL with a small effect size (d = 0.18), well-being with a medium effect size (d = 0.47) and health status with a small effect size (d = 0.26). As the effect size of well-being is most pronounced the generally reported effects of GH replacement on QoL may be overestimated and actually reflect the effect on well-being.
CONCLUSION: To get more insight in the specific psychological effects of GH treatment it is recommended that instruments selected for these studies should be more consistently classified as instruments measuring QoL, well-being or health status.