• depression;
  • disability;
  • handicap;
  • nursing;
  • quality of life;
  • toxic oil syndrome

Aim.  This paper reports an investigation of the quality of life of patients most severely affected by toxic oil syndrome and the association between quality of life and disability variables, handicaps and depression.

Background.  In 1981, an epidemic occurred in Central and Northwestern Spain. The illness, now called toxic oil syndrome (TOS), appeared to be caused by consumption of oil mixtures containing rapeseed oil denatured with aniline and affected over 20,000 individuals. Today, it is classified as a chronic disease that has resulted in a large number of sequelae.

Method.  From the 1031 people classified with permanent disability, a random sample of 292 individuals was selected. A structured interview was carried out to investigate the clinical aspects. The Nottingham Health Profile Questionnaire was used to assess quality of life. To study the relationship between quality of life and disability, handicap and depression, a univariate analysis was carried out. The chi-square test was used for inter-group comparisons. A P-value of 0·05 was adopted as the limit for inclusion of a variable in the multivariate analysis. Multivariate analysis was undertaken using logistic regression.

Results.  Two hundred and fourteen patients were interviewed (79% response rate). Mean age was 59·3 (sd: 12·7) years. Quality of life mean score was 52·8 (sd: 22·6). The variables associated with poorer quality of life perception were depression [odds ratio (OR) = 9·66, confidence interval (CI) = 3·71–25·15], role-related disabilities (occupation role: OR = 2·82 CI = 1·28–6·22) and mobility (bending/picking up: OR = 4·74, CI = 2·31–9·72), as well as economic problems (OR = 1·62, CI = 1·07–2·46).

Conclusion.  The quality of life of those most severely affected by TOS is poor. Their health profile is characterized by depression and important functional and psycho-social disabilities that limit daily living activities and social roles, and are related to self-perceptions of poor quality of life.