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Does Scoliosis Have a Psychological Impact and Does Gender Make a Difference?

Payne, William K. III, MD*,#,**,††; Ogilvie, James W., MD†§; Resnick, Michael D., PhD‡§; Kane, Robert L., MD; Transfeldt, Ensor E., MD; Blum, Robert W., MD, PhD§

Health Services Research

Study Design. A population-based case-control study, we identified adolescents with and without scoliosis in Minnesota who were 12 through 18 years of age. Matched control subjects were randomly selected from school children who did not have scoliosis or any other condition. Information on scoliosis was obtained by a self-administered questionnaire, the Adolescent Health Survey. Collected on more than 75,000 school age adolescents, with established validity and reliability, a secondary analysis of adolescents with scoliosis was performed as compared with a normative peer group.

Objective. To describe and characterize the psychosocial impact of scoliosis on the areas of peer relations, body image, and health-compromising behavior, such as suicidal thought and alcohol consumption.

Summary of Background Data. The impact of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis has not been assessed using generic health status measures appropriate for adolescents. Previous studies have concentrated on the health status of adults by measuring work status, marriage status, and other adult measures. The purpose of this study was to study the health status of patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, using the Adolescent Health Survey, a generic health status measure with established validity and reliability.

Methods. Body image, peer relations, social and high-risk behavior, and comparative health were assessed to determine if scoliosis was an independent risk factor and to determine if scoliosis was associated with these psychosocial issues.

Results. Six hundred eighty-five cases of scoliosis were identified from the 34,706 adolescents. The prevalence was 1.97%. Of the 685 adolescents with scoliosis and their control subjects, the adjusted odds ratio for having suicidal thought among adolescents with scoliosis, compared to adolescents without scoliosis, was 1.40 (P value of 0.04) after adjustment for race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age. The adjusted odds ratio for having feelings about poor body development among adolescents with scoliosis was 1.82 (P value 0.001) compared with adolescents without scoliosis after adjustment for race, gender, socioeconomic status, and age. Scoliosis was an independent risk factor for suicidal thought, worry and concern over body development, and peer interactions after adjustment.

Conclusion. Scoliosis is a significant risk factor for psychosocial issues and health-compromising behavior. Gender differences exist in male and female adolescents with scoliosis.

From the *Twin Cities Scoliosis Spine Center, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, ‡School of Public Health, §Department of Pediatrics, ∥Institute for Health Services Research, and the ¶Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota; #American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Rosemont, Illinois; **Charles R. Drew University, Los Angeles, California; and ††Suburban Heights Medical Center, Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Supported by grants from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Research Education Foundation.

Acknowledgment date: August 21, 1996.

First revision date: January 29, 1997.

Acceptance date: February 5, 1997.

Device status category: 1.

Address reprint requests to: William K. Payne III, MD; Suburban Heights Medical Center; 333 Dixie Highway; Chicago Heights, IL 60411-1790.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.