Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI and IMI Research Reveals That Many Managers Perceive Their Quality of Life To Be Low.

01 March 2006

Details of a new study in which many senior managers perceived themselves to have a low quality of life were made available today (Wednesday 01 March 2006- National Work Life Balance Day)

The collaborative research project was lead by Professor Ciaran O’Boyle, Professor of Psychology and Head of the School of Healthcare Management at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Georgina Corscadden, Senior Specialist at the Irish Management Institute (IMI).

For the study 107 newly appointed managers and 14 senior managers were asked to complete an individualised measure of Quality of Life (the Schedule for Evaluation of Individual Quality of Life (SEIQoL); developed by the Department of Psychology at the RCSI.)

Each manager was first asked to identify the five most important areas of their lives in terms of Quality of Life (QoL). They were then asked to assess their own levels of satisfaction in each of the five areas and finally, were asked to rate the relative importance of each.

This produced three very important pieces of information, all determined by the individuals themselves. Scientists assessed the information to reveal an overall estimate for perceived QoL ranging from 0-100. Researchers noted that the word “perceived” was extremely important in this study as it reflected the individual’s own judgement of their QoL as assessed by them, within their own frame of reference.

The results were compared to similar QoL studies carried out on patients with a variety of conditions such as peptic ulcer disease and osteoarthritis. Patient groups perceived their QoL levels to range from 2 to 96 with an average of 73 for those with peptic ulcer disease. Patients with osteoarthritis scored an average of 62 while motor neurone disease sufferers perceived their QoL level average to be 58.

“While many patients with serious conditions rated their quality of life as very low, others did not. The reason for this according to the research is that patients had changed their frame of reference and some elements of life that were very important to them, such as family for example, were going very well. Obviously, many areas of their lives were hugely impaired by disease but the measure revealed that, from their own perspective, some elements of their quality of life were often quite good,” explained Professor O’ Boyle.

When the same QoL measure was completed by newly appointed managers the range was 35 – 90 with an average of 67, a lower average than that of patients with peptic ulcer disease where the range was 26 – 95 and the average 73.

“This means that, on average, newly appointed managers perceived their own quality of life to be at a lower level than that perceived by patients with peptic ulcer disease,” Prof O Boyle said.

Surprisingly, a group of 14 senior managers showed a range of 17 – 72 with an average of 52. Therefore, on average, senior managers perceived their own QoL to be lower than that perceived by any of the patient groups.

“This does not mean that the quality of life of senior managers was objectively lower than those of patients suffering from serious conditions as such a comparison cannot be legitimately made. It simply means that some senior managers, using the same quality of life measurement as patient groups, perceived their own quality of life to be low within their own frame of reference,” Professor O’ Boyle explained.

“But two important conclusions can be made from these studies. First, while serious illness can significantly impair quality of life, patients can still find significant meaning in their own lives and thereby rate the quality of some aspects of their lives as very good. For many patients, even in the midst of extreme suffering there is still quality of life. Second, the surprisingly low scores perceived by some senior managers indicate that, within their own frame of reference, they view the quality of their own lives as being low. While it does not make sense to make objective comparisons of subjective findings, this research suggests that some managers may need to change their frames of reference,” he added.