Measuring the quality of life of incarcerated individuals

Ashley Elizabeth Muller (Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway) (Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway)
Anne Bukten (Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway) (Division for Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway) (The Correctional Service of Norway Staff Academy, Oslo, Norway)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Publication date: 11 March 2019



Measuring quality of life (QoL) under incarceration can be used to track successful rehabilitation and risk of re-offending. However, few studies have measured QoL among general incarcerated populations, and it is important to use psychometrically strong measures that pose minimal burdens to respondents and administrators. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


The aim of this analysis was to explore the utility of a short generic tool measuring overall QoL, the QOL5, in an incarcerated population. The authors drew data from the Norwegian Offender Mental Health and Addiction Study, a cross-sectional survey of 1,499 individuals from Norwegian prisons.


Factor analysis suggested a unidimensional structure that explained 53.2 percent of variance in QoL scores. Intrascale correlations were high and internal consistency was acceptable (α=0.764). The QOL5 was strongly correlated with mental health, moderately correlated with exercise frequency and weakly correlated with ward security.

Practical implications

The QOL5 is a short measure that presents minimal burden to respondents and administrators. The authors recommend its further use in incarcerated populations to measure overall QoL as well as cross-cultural adaptation and validation in more languages.


In this analysis of the largest published sample to date of incarcerated individuals and their QoL, the QOL5 appears to be an acceptable and valid measure of overall QoL.



Muller, A. and Bukten, A. (2019), "Measuring the quality of life of incarcerated individuals", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 1-13.

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