Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs)

  • M. Bryant HowrenEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_613-2


The quality-adjusted life year (QALY) is a standardized measure of disease burden which combines both survival and health-related qualities of life into a single index. The QALY is primarily used in cost-effectiveness analyses to guide decisions regarding the distribution of limited healthcare resources among competing health programs or interventions for a population of interest but has also been used to aid decisions regarding clinical management and individual patient care.

Conceptually based in expected utility theory, the QALY rests on the assumption that preference-weighted values may be attached to specific health states relative to the time spent in those states. Because the QALY incorporates both quantity and quality of life, it therefore provides a reasonable estimate of the amount of quality time (i.e., health benefit) an individual may experience as a result of a particular health program or intervention. Furthermore, comparisons between programs or interventions...

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References and Further Readings

  1. Drummond, M. F., Sculpher, M. J., Torrance, G. W., O’Brien, B. J., & Stoddart, G. L. (2005). Methods for the economic evaluation of health care programmes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Gold, M. R., Stevenson, D., & Fryback, D. G. (2002). HALYs and QALYs and DALYs, oh my: Similarities and differences in summary measures of population health. Annual Review of Public Health, 23, 115–134.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Kaplan, R. M., & Frosch, D. L. (2005). Decision making in medicine and health care. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 525–556.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Kaplan, R. M., & Groessl, E. J. (2002). Applications of cost-effectiveness methodologies in behavioral medicine. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 70, 482–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Kind, P., Lafata, J. E., Matuszewski, K., & Raisch, D. (2009). The use of QALYs in clinical and patient decision-making: Issues and prospects. Value in Health, 12, S27–S30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Nord, E. (1999). Cost-value analysis in health care: Making sense out of QALYs. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Weinstein, M. C., Torrance, G., & McGuire, A. (2009). QALYs: The basics. Value in Health, 12, S5–S9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Iowa &VA Iowa City Healthcare SystemIowa CityUSA