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A cross-country comparison of health-related quality of life in the United States, Sweden, and Norway during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Chen J, Gong CL, Persson U, Gu NY

Background: Limited studies have directly compared health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in different countries during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The objective of this study was to evaluate the HRQoL outcomes in the US, Sweden, and Norway during the first year under the pandemic.

Methods: In April 2020, during early phase of the pandemic, separately in the US, Sweden, and Norway, we surveyed 2,734, 1,003 and 1,020 respondents, then again in January 2021, we collected 2,252, 1,013 and 1,011 respondents. The survey was first developed in English and translated into Swedish and Norwegian. Selected variables were used for the current study. We collected respondents’ HRQoL using the EQ-5D-5L. Respondents’ background information included their sociodemographic data, medical history, and COVID-19 status. We reported the EQ-5D-5L utility, EQ-VAS, and the proportion of problems with each of the EQ-5D-5L health subdomains. Population quality-adjusted life year (QALY) changes based on EQ-5D-5L utility scores were also calculated. Outcomes were stratified by age. One-way ANOVA test was used to detect significant differences between countries and Student’s t-tests were used to assess the differences between waves.

Results: Respectively for the US, Sweden, and Norway, mean EQ-5D-5L utilities were 0.822, 0.768, and 0.808 in April 2020 (p < 0.001); 0.823, 0.783, and 0.777 in January 2021 (p < 0.001); mean EQ-VAS scores were 0.746, 0.687, and 0.692 in April 2020 (p < 0.001), 0.764, 0.682, and 0.678 in January 2021 (p < 0.001). For both waves, EQ-5D-5L utilities and EQ-VAS scores in the US remained higher than both Sweden and Norway (p < 0.001). Norwegians reported considerably lowered HRQoL over time (p < 0.01). Self-reported problems with anxiety/depression were highest for the US and Sweden, while Norwegians reported most problems with pain/discomfort, followed by anxiety/depression. The population QALYs increased in the US and Sweden, but decreased in Norway.

Conclusions: In the first year of the pandemic, a rebound in HRQoL was observed in the US, but not in Sweden or Norway. Mental health issues during the pandemic warrant a major public health concern across all 3 countries.

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Archive of Public Health, 2023 Apr 20;81(1):58
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-023-01088-1