Published Papers - Abstract 76

Dobson A, Schofield M, Ball J, Ellem J, Reynolds R & Wicks D. Life events scales for young, middle-aged and older women. , ; :

This paper describes the development and use of three age-specific life events scales designed for the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH). Starting with published lists of life events, additional items of importance to women (e.g. violence and sexual abuse) were included while items inappropriate for the study population were deleted. A series of studies was conducted to obtain information on the 12 month incidence of the events, their perceived severity and the acceptability and face validity of the lists for women aged 18-22, 45-49 and 70-74 years. Using this information, shorter lists were developed and used in the baseline postal survey of the ALSWH involving a random sample of over 40,000 women from all over Australia.The reliability of the instruments was assessed by comparing results from different samples of women in the same age groups. Validity was tested by comparison with the physical and mental health component summary (PCS and MCS) scores of the SF36 quality of life measure. As well as considering the performance of individual items, both unweighted scores (percentage of events experienced in the last 12 months) and weighted scores (weighted by the perceived severity of the events) were assessed.There were differences in the incidence and perceived severity of specific life events among women at different stages of their lives. Young women experienced more events and perceived them to require more adjustment. Negative events were perceived to require more adjustment than positive ones. For many of the life events there were clinically (as well as statistically) significant differences in mean PCS and MCS scores between women who experienced the event and those who did not. The perceived severity ratings for items were correlated with differences in mean PCS and MCS scores for middle-aged and older women who did or did not experience the events (but not for younger women). Life events scores, summed over all items in the lists, showed differences among the three age groups and were negatively correlated with concurrently assessed PCS and MCS. There was little evidence that the weighted scores performed any better than the unweighted ones.The results suggest that these gender and age-specific life events scales will be useful tools for studying women’s health in their social context. The predictive validity of the scales, in terms of health outcomes over time, will be assessed through the ALSWH.