PURPOSE: Chronic lung disease results in impaired quality of life (QOL) linked to loss of muscular strength and functional ability. Inequalities in strength and function may place women at greater risk than men. This study evaluated the influence of gender on the relationship between muscular strength, functional ability, and QOL.
METHODS: Older adults (N = 40) referred to a pulmonary rehabilitation program completed assessment of upper body and lower body strength, functional ability, and QOL. To compensate for gender differences, strength was normalized for body mass.
RESULTS: Strength was greater in men than in women (P < .001). No gender differences were observed for function. Men perceived better QOL related to physical function (score: 39.3 ± 3.3 vs 27.1 ± 2.1, P < .01) and social function (score: 58.0 ± 5.8 vs 41.6 ± 4.0, P < .05). In men, strength was related directly to QOL through physical function (r = 0.53, P < .05) and social function (r = 0.52, P < .05), and functional ability had no relationship to QOL. In women, strength was related to functional ability (r = 0.57, P < .05), and functional ability was directly related to QOL through physical function (r = 0.46, P < .05), and social function (r = 0.59, P < .01).
CONCLUSIONS: Functional ability mediates the relationship between strength and QOL in women, while in men strength is directly related to QOL. These gender-specific pathways to QOL may be of importance to clinicians planning interventions for older adults with chronic lung disease.