Skip navigation

RLS and QoL

Clinical bottom line

RLS is associated with major negative impact on quality of life. Patients with RLS had worse quality of life than the general population on all eight domains of SF-36. RLS patients had generally worse quality of life than patients with hypertension, other cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and osteoarthritis.


L Abetz et al. Evaluating the quality of life of patients with restless legs syndrome. Clinical Therapeutics 2004 26: 925-935.


This was an observational study of 85 patients with RLS in the USA, who, as part of a larger study, completed the SF-36 quality of life instrument at baseline performed within the last few years. General population values were taken from populations in the USA in 1990, from 2474 non-institutionalised individuals aged 18 to 94 years.

RLS patients had to have attended a US clinic and been diagnosed as having RLS by a sleep medicine specialist experienced in treating RLS, using standard diagnostic criteria. Patients with RLS secondary to pregnancy, dialysis, or other causes were excluded.


The 85 patients with RLS had a mean age of 62 years (25 to over 75), were two-thirds women, two thirds experienced RLS symptoms daily, mostly taking medicines for their RLS. The general population group were younger (half below 45 years), but information on SF-36 scores was available by age group and by various conditions. The main findings were:


These results show that RLS has a substantial impact on quality of life, and this was apparent on all of the eight domains of SF-36, which measures different aspects of quality. The negative impact was certainly in keeping with other major conditions known to impact negatively on quality of life. The size of the differences is also interesting, and most of the statistically significant results would be clinically meaningful as well.

Quality of life studies have their limitations, and perhaps size is one here. But their use is to paint a broad picture more than fine detail, and the broad picture is that RLS is associated with major negative impact on quality of life.