Individuals with serious medical conditions can perceive their health status as good. This might be explained by the symptomatology inherent to the condition. Research in this respect is scarce. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a spectrum of mild, moderate, and complex heart defects, representing more benign and severe chronic conditions. We investigated (1) symptomatology (i.e., symptom frequency and symptom distress) of CHD patients; (2) the extent to which symptomatology was independently related to perceived health; and (3) the relative importance of individual symptoms for perceived health.
A secondary data analysis on two separate patient samples (629 Belgian and 1,109 Dutch patients) was conducted. Patients’ symptomatology was measured with the TAAQOL–CHD. Perceived health was measured by the EQ-5Dvas in Belgian patients, and by a single item (EVGFP rating) of the SF-36 in Dutch patients. Linear regression analyses were performed to investigate the relationship between symptoms and perceived health, while controlling for sex, age, disease complexity, and functional status.
The most frequently occurring symptoms were dizziness, palpitations, and nycturia. Symptom distress was associated with perceived health, independent of confounders. Symptom distress with respect to shortness of breath while walking; palpitations; and dizziness were independently related to perceived health.
Perceived health in CHD patients is partially associated with their symptomatology. This finding underscores the possibility that differences in perceived health across patient groups with more benign and severe conditions may be caused by the different impact conditions have—in terms of symptoms—on the day-to-day life.