The reliability, validity and sensitivity to change of the Chinese version of SF-36 in oriental patients with rheumatoid arthritis

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To assess the reliability, validity and sensitivity to change of a Chinese version of the 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) in Chinese-speaking patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in Singapore.


The psychometric properties of the Chinese Hong Kong standard version of the SF-36 were assessed in 401 RA patients. The construct validity of the Chinese SF-36 was assessed by comparison with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) functional status, a validated Chinese Health Assessment Questionnaire (C-HAQ) and markers of RA activity and severity.


The overall Cronbach's coefficient alpha was 0.921, reflecting excellent internal consistency. The instrument showed reasonable test–retest reliability except in the social functioning (SF) subscale. There was a significant ceiling effect in the role physical (RP), SF and role emotional (RE) subscales and a floor effect in the RP and RE subscales. Physical function (PF) and SF were strongly correlated with C-HAQ and patient's assessment of RA activity [Pearson's correlation coefficient (r) ranging from −0.41 to −0.53] and moderately correlated with ACR functional status (r=−0.35 and −0.3, respectively). Weak correlations were also found between the Chinese SF-36 and markers of RA activity, deformed joint count and radiographic damage. PF and SF were the subscales most responsive to change in quality of life (QOL).


The Chinese SF-36 showed reasonable reliability, criterion validity and responsiveness with limitations in certain subscales. Overall, the physical domains and PF in particular may be the most ideal psychometric measures of QOL in RA.

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