Introduction: As women suffer worse functional outcomes of stroke than men, they may also face more challenges with community reintegration but data are scarce. We examined sex differences in participation after stroke and which factors might account for these disparities.
Methods: INSTRUCT is an individual participant data pooling study of incident strokes obtained from 13 population-based cohorts worldwide. Two of the cohorts (Melbourne ’96-‘99 and Auckland ’02-‘03) included assessment of participation at 5 years after stroke using the London Handicap Scale (LHS). The LHS is used to assess the individual’s perspective of their involvement in life situations including orientation (person’s awareness of surroundings), physical independence, mobility, occupation, social interaction and economic self-efficiency. The total score ranges from 0 (worst disadvantage) to 100 (no disadvantage). Linear regression was used to compare LHS total scores and sub-domains for women compared to men. Study-specific multivariable models incorporated adjustment for socio-demographics, stroke-related factors, pre-stroke health and post-stroke factors were combined using random-effects meta-analysis.
Results: At 5 years after stroke, there were data on participation for 351/592 (59%) of survivors in Melbourne and 266/881 (30%) of survivors in Auckland. Women suffered greater participation restriction than men (total LHS, pooled mean difference, MD -5.55 [95% CI -8.47, -2.63]). The magnitude of the difference attenuated after adjusting for covariates (pooled MD -2.48 [-4.99, 0.03]). Significant confounders in study-specific models included age, stroke severity, pre-stroke dependency and pre-stroke dementia for Melbourne; and age, stroke severity and pre-stroke dependency for Auckland. In sub-dimensions, women had greater restriction than men in mobility, physical independence and occupation. Additionally, women in Melbourne experienced poorer social integration and orientation than men.
Conclusion: Greater restriction in participation after stroke among women than men was mostly attributable to their advanced age and greater pre-stroke dependency. Interventions targeting participation could reduce the impact of stroke in women.