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For Immediate Release:
April 05, 2001
For more information contact:
DHS Communications
(213) 240-8144 Pager: (213) 990-7107

Health-Related Quality of Life Lower in L.A. County than Nationally
Report Highlights Toll of Depression, Other Chronic Diseases in County

LOS ANGELES - The first report on health-related quality of life in Los Angeles County indicates that adults in Los Angeles County report more days of poor health and more days of limited activities (such as work and recreation) because of poor health than do adults throughout California and the United States. According to the new report, released by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), Angelenos reported an average of 6.4 days of poor health (referred to as "unhealthy days") and 2.4 days of limited activity because of poor health (referred to as "activity limitation days") in the past month. The county figures were higher than those for California (5.9 days and 2.1 days, respectively) and the nation (5.5 days and 1.9 days, respectively) in 1999.

"These results document and quantify for the first time the significant impact that poor health has on the daily lives of Angelenos," said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer.

Using measures developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 1999 - 2000 Los Angeles County Health Survey asked the nearly 8400 respondents a set of quality of life questions. The CDC has encouraged local and state health departments to adopt these measures. Los Angeles is the first county in the nation to examine this issue. The questions are part of an in-depth health survey examining health-related issues for adults and children; the survey was conducted between September 1999 and April 2000. Other findings include:

· Persons living below the federal poverty level reported one and a half times more unhealthy days and nearly double the number of activity limitation days in the past month than did those living above 300% of the federal poverty level.

· Persons living below poverty were also more than four times as likely to report their health as only poor or fair (38%) than those living above 300% of poverty (9%). "Self-rated health status has been shown in a number of research studies to be a predictor of shortened life expectancy and is also an important indicator of need for health services," said Dr. Fielding. The findings also highlight the substantial burden of mental illness and other chronic diseases in the county:

· Persons who had been diagnosed with depression reported three times as many unhealthy days and four times as many activity-limitation days as those individuals not diagnosed with depression. Similar trends were also found for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and asthma. The findings are consistent with another recent county study that found these chronic diseases among the leading causes of premature death and disability in the county population.

"Although advances in public health and medicine over the past century have increased the average life expectancy in the United States by nearly 30 years, many more persons are now living for long periods of their lives with chronic health conditions," said Dr. Fielding. "Reducing the burden of these chronic diseases in the county, both through improved prevention and treatment, needs to be one of our highest public health priorities."

The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a biennial population-based telephone survey of approximately 8,000 households in the County, examining health and health-related issues for adults and children. It was first conducted in 1997 and again between September 1999 and April 2000. The Field Research Corporation conducted the survey for DHS with support from the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.