Quality of Life Research

, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 3249–3257 | Cite as

Age-specific trends in health-related quality of life among US adults: findings from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2001–2016

  • Mary L. GreaneyEmail author
  • Steven A. Cohen
  • Bryan J. Blissmer
  • Jacob E. Earp
  • Furong Xu



Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) is an important indicator of population health, yet no age-specific trend analyses in HRQoL have been conducted with a nationally representative sample since 2004. Therefore, to address this gap, an age-specific trend analysis of HRQoL was conducted using National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) data.


NHANES 2001–2016 data (8 cycles) were examined to evaluate trends in HRQoL by age group (young adults: 21–39, middle-aged: 40–64, older adults: 65+). HRQoL was assessed by self-reported health (SRH) and number of physically unhealthy, mentally unhealthy, and inactive days to due to physical or mental health in the past 30 days. Multiple linear or logistic regression analyses explored trends in HRQoL by age group, adjusting for demographics over time.


Analysis revealed increasing fair/poor SRH over time for the entire sample (β = 0.34, 95% CI 0.08, 0.60, p = 0.011). However, age-specific analysis identified a bi-annual increase in fair/poor SRH only among young adults (β = 0.49, 95% CI 0.22, 0.76, p < 0.001) and a decrease among older adults (β = − 0.60, 95% CI − 1.14, − 0.06, p = 0.03). Closer inspection revealed increasing fair/poor SRH increased among young women (β = 0.52, 95% CI 0.11, 0.93, p = 0.013) and young men (β = 0.46, 95% CI 0.04, 0.88, p = 0.03) but decreased among older women (β = − 0.81, 95% CI − 1.59, − 0.03, p = 0.042) over time. Analyses also determined that there was a trend for a decreasing number of physically unhealthy days among young adults (p < 0.001), although no trends were observed for the other HRQoL items.


Although there was a significant trend over time for increasing fair/poor SRH when considering the entire sample, this trend was not consistent between age groups or sexes. Given increasing fair/poor SRH among young adults, there is a need to understand and address factors relating to HRQoL among this age group.


Health-related quality of life Aging Trend analysis NHANES 



Health-related quality of life


Self-reported health


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System


Confidence interval


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary L. Greaney
    • 1
    Email author
  • Steven A. Cohen
    • 1
  • Bryan J. Blissmer
    • 2
  • Jacob E. Earp
    • 2
  • Furong Xu
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Health Studies, University of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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