Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Kaczmarek

Second Advisor

William D. Reed

Abstract

Active chronic hepatitis C (CHC) is a viral infection that affects approximately 150,000 Austra1ians. It has various quality of life impacts and the literature suggests some cognitive ramifications. In this Western Australian exploratory study, 13 healthy students from Edith Cowan University made up a control group. One experimental group consisted of 11 people with CHC and mild liver damage, and a second experimental group consisted of 8 people with CHC and at least moderate liver damage. The participants were assessed with a health-related quality of life questionnaire, the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36); a test of cognitive functioning, the PSE-Syndrome-Test (PSE-Test); and a test of pre-morbid intelligence, the National Adult Reading Test(NART). One of the aims of the study was to consider the local suitability of these instruments. The control group results on the SF-36 and the NART were as expected compared to relevant norms. The PSE-Test, which has not been used in Australia, performed as expected with one possible difficulty, probably relating to the translation of the instructions from German to Australian. While the tests performed satisfactorily, one of the main conclusions of the study was that cross-sectional survey designs are problematic for research in this area, because of the large number of uncontrollable variables. It is suggested that repeated measures designs are more likely to produce credible results. Due to the exploratory nature of the study, the small number of participants and the lack of control over variables, it was difficult to provide convincing statistics. Nevertheless, the SF-36 results largely followed the pattern established in the literature that points to a diagnosis of HCV as being the most important determinant of health-related quality of life in people infected with the virus. The PSE-Test results, as adjusted by NART covariation, showed no evidence of dysfunction in the cognitive domains of attention, concentration and fine motor control. Indeed, the group with CHC and mild liver damage performed marginally better than the university students. The practical conclusion from this research, and related studies, is that anti-viral treatment should be aimed at the re-establishment of current health-related quality of life, in addition to targeting the preservation of future quality of life.

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