Quality of life survey among a severely handicapped population



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Researchers have become increasingly more interested in the quality of life in America. However, the quality of life among America's severely physically handicapped has only been minimally broached. The purpose of this investigation was to explore with nonhospitalized handicapped individuals what they value as being important to a good quality of life and secondarily to have them to assess the qualities of their living arrangements. Questionnaire responses of 44 severely physically handicapped respondents residing in different living arrangements and 45 nonhandicapped respondents were compared on: (a) demographic variables; (b) social variables; (c) life satisfaction; (d) current quality of life; (e) the good life; (f) the best and worst future; (g) worries; (h) self-perception; and (i) Dalkey's 12 characteristics of the good life. Demographically, the handicapped group was older, largely male, more frequently in less-than-professional positions or unemployed. They had a lower mean income and were more dependent on outside sources for income. Fewer handicapped were married and those married more often unhappily. Both groups reported: (a) being fairly satisfied with life; (b) a positive self-perception; and (c) a positive affect level. An interesting finding was that both groups independently generated a similar pool of items from which ten basic categories were devised, by raters, to express those characteristics important to a good life: personal characteristics, economic and material security, health, job or primary activity, family and marriage, friends and social life, success and achievement, leisure and pleasurable activity, religion, and love and affection. The handicapped group tended to emphasize the categories more closely related to achieving and maintaining a reasonable amount of stability and security. Security needs were not the chief concerns for the nonhandicapped group. The issue of living arrangements yielded an unexpected finding, e.g., the vulnerability of the family home. The home was found to be the least stable residence. A handicapped person was more likely to have moved from home than any of the other residences included in this study.