Living with achondroplasia in an average-sized world: An assessment of quality of life

Sarah E. Gollust, Richard E. Thompson, Holly C. Gooding, Barbara B. Biesecker

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Mutations in the gene encoding fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 cause achondroplasia, the most common form of inherited skeletal dysplasia. Although there are more than 10,000 individuals with achondroplasia living in the United States, there has been little study of their quality of life (QOL). For this study, surveys were collected from 189 individuals affected with achondroplasia (ACH) and 136 unaffected first-degree relatives (FDRs) of affected individuals. Individuals affected with achondroplasia had lower annual income, less education, and were less likely to be married than FDRs. They also differed significantly in their perceptions of achondroplasia, with FDRs believing that achondroplasia is a more serious condition. Total QOL indices and indices in each of four QOL subdomains were significantly lower in affected individuals than in relatives. When controlling for demographic characteristics and affected status, having lower self-esteem scores and perceiving achondroplasia as more serious were the independent factors most highly associated with lower QOL. A qualitative analysis of open responses to questions about the advantages and disadvantages of achondroplasia revealed that individuals were as likely to cite disadvantages relating to social barriers as they were to cite those relating to health and functioning. We interpret the low QOL scores to reflect the social challenges that individuals with achondroplasia regularly experience in the average-sized world. Genetics professionals should considersources of lower QOL for affected individuals in their counseling sessions to acknowledge the relative importance of non-medical contributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-458
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics
Volume120 A
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • Achondroplasia
  • Illness perception
  • Quality of life
  • Self-esteem
  • Short stature
  • Social functioning


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