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Gender differences in health related quality of life of young heroin users

Antònia Domingo-Salvany12*, M Teresa Brugal23, Gregorio Barrio24, Francisco González-Saiz5, M José Bravo26, Luís de la Fuente26 and the ITINERE Investigators1

Author Affiliations

1 Drug Abuse Epidemiology Research Group. IMIM-Hospital del Mar. Dr. Aiguader, 88. E-08003 Barcelona, Spain

2 CIBER de Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Spain

3 Public Health Agency (ASPB). Pl Lesseps 1. E-08023. Barcelona, Spain

4 Escuela Nacional de Sanidad. Avenida Monforte de Lemos 5. 28029-Madrid, Spain

5 Fundación Andaluza para la Atención e Incorporación Social (FADAIS). Avda. de Hytasa, edificio Toledo II. Plt., 3ª, Ofic. n° 1. E-41006 Sevilla, Spain

6 Centro Nacional de Epidemiología. Instituto de Salud Carlos III. Sinesio Delgado 6. Madrid, Spain

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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2010, 8:145  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-8-145

Published: 1 December 2010



Health Related Quality of Life (HRQL) of opiate users has been studied in treatment settings, where assistance for drug use was sought. In this study we ascertain factors related to HRQL of young opiate users recruited outside treatment facilities, considering both genders separately.


Current opiate users (18-30 y) were recruited in outdoor settings in three Spanish cities (Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla). Standardised laptop interviews included socio-demographic data, drug use patterns, health related issues, the Severity of Dependence Scale (SDS) and the Nottingham Health Profile (NHP).


A total of 991 subjects (73% males), mean age = 25.7 years were interviewed. The mean global NHP score differed by gender (women: 41.2 (sd:23.8); men:34.1(sd:23.6);p < 0.05). Multivariate analysis was implemented separately by gender, variables independently related with global NHP score, both for males and females, were heroin and cocaine SDS scores. For women, only other drug related variables (alcohol intake and length of cocaine use) were independently associated with their HRQL. HIV+ males who suffered an opiate overdose or had psychiatric care in the last 12 months perceived their health as poorer, while those who had ever been in methadone treatment in the last 12 months perceived it as better. The model with both genders showed all factors for males plus quantity of alcohol and an interaction between gender and HIV status.


Heroin users were found to be at a considerable risk of impaired HRQL, even in these young ages. A score approaching severity of dependence was the factor with the strongest relation with it.