Exploring subjective constructions of health in China : a Q-methodological investigation

Mao, Zhuxin and Ahmed, Shenaz and Graham, Christopher and Kind, Paul (2020) Exploring subjective constructions of health in China : a Q-methodological investigation. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 18. 165. ISSN 1477-7525 (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12955-020-01414-z)

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Background: With an increasing awareness of people's satisfaction and feeling, health-related quality of life (HRQoL) has become an essential aspect of measuring health. HRQoL is fundamentally a foreign concept introduced to China from the West. While a growing number of studies applied western HRQoL measures, few content validity tests examined the legitimacy of applying Western developed HRQoL measures in a Chinese cultural setting. If there are distinct differences in health conceptualisation between China and the West, it can be argued that those western measures may fail to ask the most appropriate and important questions among a Chinese population in assessing health. As a limited number of studies have investigated Chinese people's understandings of health, this study aimed to explore how health is defined and described in China. Methods: A Q-methodological study was conducted to explore subjective constructions of health among Chinese participants. A scoping review of Chinese generic HRQoL measures, supplemented by a series of qualitative interviews conducted in China, produced a list of 42 statements representing aspects of health considered as being important in a Chinese cultural setting. Chinese participants in face-to-face interviews ranked and sorted these statements. Data were analysed to identify clusters of participants who shared a similar perspective, using a by-person factor analysis procedure. Results: 110 Chinese participants with various demographics characteristics completed sorting interviews. Five independent factors emerged: (I) "Physical independence and social interaction skills"; (II) "Physical health"; (III) "Sensations and feelings"; (IV) "Lifestyles"; (V) "Learning and working abilities". Conclusions: The Q-study showed that many health statements were rated highly as most important by a diverse range of Chinese participants but were not covered in the commonly used Western HRQoL measure EQ-5D. It then suggests that the EQ-5D descriptive system might need modification to improve its capacity to measure health status in China. The study thus raises a general question as to how appropriate the Western-developed HRQoL measures are when used to assess health in a significantly different cultural setting.