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09-07-2020 Open Access

Filling the psycho-social gap in the EQ-5D: the empirical support for four bolt-on dimensions

Quality of Life Research
Gang Chen, Jan Abel Olsen
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-020-02576-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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The EQ-5D is the most widely applied generic preference-based measure (GPBM) of health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Much concern has been raised that its descriptive system is lacking psycho-social dimensions. A recent paper in this journal provided theoretical support for four dimensions to fill this gap. The current paper aims to provide empirical support for these suggested bolt-on dimensions to the EQ-5D.


We use data from the comprehensive Multi-Instrument-Comparison (MIC) study. The four proposed bolt-on dimensions (Vitality, Sleep, Social Relationships, and Community Connectedness) were selected from the Assessment of Quality of Life (AQoL)-8D. We investigate the relative importance of these four dimensions as compared to the five EQ-5D-5L dimensions on explaining HRQoL (measured by a visual analogue scale; N = 7846) or global life satisfaction (measured by the Satisfaction With Life Scale; N = 8005), using the Shorrocks-Shapely decomposition analysis. Robustness analyses on Vitality was conducted using data from the United States National Health Measurement Study (NHMS) (N = 3812).


All five EQ-5D-5L dimensions and four bolt-on dimensions significantly explained the variance of HRQoL. Among them, Vitality was found to be the most important dimension with regard to the HRQoL (relative contribution based on the Shorrocks-Shapely decomposition of R2: 23.0%), followed by Usual Activities (15.1%). Self-Care was the least important dimension (relative contribution: 5.4%). As a comparison, when explaining global life satisfaction, Social Relationships was the most important dimension (relative contribution: 24.0%), followed by Anxiety/Depression (23.2%), while Self-Care remained the least important (relative contribution: 1.6%). The importance of the Vitality dimension in explaining HRQoL was supported in the robustness analysis using the NHMS data (relative contribution: 23.7%).


We provide empirical support for complementing the current EQ-5D-5L descriptive system with a coherent set of four bolt-on dimensions that will fill its psycho-social gap. Such an extended health state classification system would in particular be relevant for programme evaluations within the expanding fields of mental health and community care.

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