Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) measures are important indicators of perceived physical and mental health and are affected by changes in health status, demographic characteristics, culture, and ethnicity. Although recent studies have reported on HRQoL in midlife women in the US, most notably the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), there has been little research conducted on quality of life issues experienced by midlife women in the Middle East. Qatar has a high prevalence of obesity, a known risk factor for many chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which adversely influences HRQoL. This study has the following goals: To compare HRQoL among midlife Arab women living in Qatar to that of women in the US, (2) to report the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and symptoms of aches and stiffness in joints, (3) to examine the impact of OA and RA on HRQoL, and (4) to compare arthritis prevalence and HRQoL of Qatari women to that of non-Qatari Arab women living in Qatar. This is a cross-sectional study of 841 women aged 40-60 recruited from nine primary health centers. Height and weight were assessed by physical examination and body mass index (BMI) was calculated as weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of height (in meters). Face-to-face interviews included demographic questions as well as questions about whether women suffered from any of a list of medical conditions, including OA and RA. The SF-36 was used to assess HRQoL and eight subscales were computed. A higher score designates a more favorable health status. Overall, women in Qatar had significantly lower mean scores than women in the SWAN for bodily pain (53.0 vs 68.9, p=0.0001) and for vitality (49.6 vs. 54.8, p=0.0001). BMI = 35 was found in 41.4% of women. OA and RA were reported by 4.8% and 4.3% of women, respectively, yet 71.6% reported being bothered by aches or stiffness in joints within the past two weeks. Half of women reported that these symptoms were either quite bothersome or intense. Women who reported having OA or RA had significantly lower scores on physical function (p<0.0001 and p=0.0002, respectively). Those with RA also had significantly reduced functioning for role physical (p=0.001). There was a trend toward lower scores among women with RA on bodily pain, vitality, and social functioning and among women with OA on bodily pain compared to women not reporting arthritis. Qatari nationals had a significantly higher prevalence of OA compared to non-Qatari women (7.4% among Qatari nationals vs. 2.6% among non-Qatari women, p=0.001). Women of Qatari nationality reported lower mean scores on physical function than non-Qatari women (73.3 vs. 80.0, p<0.0001). Midlife women in Qatar reported more bodily pain and reduced vitality than women in the SWAN, which may be the result of joint pain. The high prevalence of obesity may be predisposing women in Qatar to arthritis, which appears to be underdiagnosed given the high prevalence and intensity of joint aches and stiffness. National surveillance of the population is warranted.


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