SF-36 normative values according to level of functioning in older women

  • Geeske PeetersEmail author
  • Michael Waller
  • Annette J. Dobson



The 36-item Medical Outcome Study Short Form (SF-36) survey measures health-related quality of life. Age and disease-specific normative values have been published, but a focus on level of functioning may be more meaningful in case of multimorbidity. We estimated normative values for Australian women aged 79–90 years according to levels of functioning.


Data were from 6127 (aged 79–84 in 2005) and 3424 (aged 85–90 in 2011) participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Surveys included the SF-36 and information on housing. Record linkage to assessment data for access to the national program for aged care support was used to obtain information on participants’ need for assistance with 10 activities. Normative values were calculated for physical component (PCS), mental component (MCS), and subscale scores for subsamples defined by types of assistance needed.


At the ages of 79–84, the mean (95% confidence interval) PCS and MCS values for women not any needing assistance were 37.5 (37.2–37.9) and 53.0 (52.8–53.3) compared to 29.0 (27.8–30.2) and 45.9 (44.4–47.4) for women needing any assistance. At ages 85–90, the corresponding PCS values were 34.9 (34.5–35.4) vs. 28.2 (27.4–29.0) and the corresponding MCS values were 53.2 (52.8–53.6) vs. 48.7 (47.8–49.6). Values were higher for participants living in the community or retirement village vs. nursing homes/hostels. The PCS, MCS and 8 subscale values decreased as the need for assistance with more basic activities increased.


These normative values facilitate meaningful interpretation of SF-36 scores from the perspective of level of functioning.


SF-36 Quality of life Functional limitations Ageing Multimorbidity 



The research on which this paper is based was conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health by The University of Newcastle and The University of Queensland. We are grateful to the Australian Government Department of Health for funding and to the women who provided the survey data. This research used Aged Care Data provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. We acknowledge the Departments of Health and Veterans’ Affairs for providing these data, and the AIHW as the integrating authority. This work was supported by the Australian Government Department of Health; and Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence [grant number APP1000986]. GP is supported by a fellowship from the Global Brain Health Institute. The funding source had no role in the data collection, analyses, interpretation and decision to publish the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Data sharing statement

ALSWH data may be made available to collaborating researchers where there is a formal request to make use of the material. Permission to use the data must be obtained from the Publications, Analyses and Substudies (PSA) Committee of ALSWH. Further details can be found at

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Supplementary material

11136_2018_2077_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (104 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 103 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Brain Health InstituteTrinity College DublinDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.School of Public HealthThe University of QueenslandHerstonAustralia

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