Thyroid disorders are prevalent in Western society, yet many subjects experience limited symptoms at diagnosis, especially in hypothyroidism. We hypothesize that health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) is more severely impaired in subjects with more abnormal thyroid hormone function tests.
This is a cross-sectional study of Dutch adults participating in the LifeLines Cohort Study between December 2009 and August 2010. In 9491 Western European participants (median age 45 years; 3993 men and 5498 women), without current or former use of thyroid medication, we compared HR-QOL using the RAND 36-Item Health Survey between subjects with normal thyrotropin (TSH) values and subjects with disturbed thyroid hormone status (serum TSH, free thyroxine, and free triiodothyronine). The influence of possible confounders (age, smoking, co-morbidity) on HR-QOL was evaluated as well.
Suppressed TSH values (TSH < 0.5 mU/L) were found in 114 (1.2%), while 8334 (88.8%) had TSH within the normal range, 973 participants (10.3%) had TSH between 4 and 10 mU/L, and 70 (0.7%) had TSH > 10 mU/L. Men had a higher HR-QOL than women (70-92 vs. 65-89; p < 0.001), except for the domain "general health" (72 vs. 72; p = 0.692). Men with suppressed or elevated TSH values did not score significantly lower than euthyroid men for any of nine domains of the RAND 36-Item Health Survey. Compared with euthyroid women, women with suppressed TSH scored significantly lower in the domains "physical functioning" (84 vs. 89, p = 0.013) and "general health" (67 vs. 72, p = 0.036). Women with markedly elevated TSH (> 10 mU/L) had a score in all HR-QOL domains that was similar to that of women with normal TSH values. There were no differences in the physical component score and the mental component score between any of the TSH groups. Physical component score and mental component score were mainly determined by smoking status, co-morbidity, and body mass index or waist circumference.
In this population-based study, HR-QOL scores of subjects with suppressed TSH values or markedly elevated TSH values were generally not significantly lower than those of subjects with normal or mildly elevated TSH values.