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The utility of quality of life (QoL) as an outcome measure in youth-specific primary mental health care settings has yet to be determined. We aimed to determine: (i) whether heterogeneity on individual items of a QoL measure could be used to identify distinct groups of help-seeking young people; and (ii) the validity of these groups based on having clinically meaningful differences in demographic and clinical characteristics.
Young people, at their first presentation to one of five primary mental health services, completed a range of questionnaires, including the Assessment of Quality of Life–6 dimensions adolescent version (AQoL-6D). Latent class analysis (LCA) and multivariate multinomial logistic regression were used to define classes based on AQoL-6D and determine demographic and clinical characteristics associated with class membership.
1107 young people (12–25 years) participated. Four groups were identified: (i) no-to-mild impairment in QoL; (ii) moderate impairment across dimensions but especially mental health and coping; (iii) moderate impairment across dimensions but especially on the pain dimension; and (iv) poor QoL across all dimensions along with a greater likelihood of complex and severe clinical presentations. Differences between groups were observed with respect to demographic and clinical features.
Adding multi-attribute utility instruments such as the AQoL-6D to routine data collection in mental health services might generate insights into the care needs of young people beyond reducing psychological distress and promoting symptom recovery. In young people with impairments across all QoL dimensions, the need for a holistic and personalised approach to treatment and recovery is heightened.
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