Laymen and scientists have long known that mental distress is common after experiencing a stroke, and many assume that aphasia (loss of communication abilities in some capacity) increases this effect. However, Hilari et al. have found that moderate and expressive aphasia does not predict long-term psychological distress, and that there are in fact other factors that are more significant in predicting psychological well-being in the long term aftermath of a stroke.
The study: Hilari and her colleagues surveyed stroke patients three times: immediately after their stroke and at three and six months out. They found that, although the actual severity of the stroke was the most common reason for distress immediately after stroke, the strongest predictors of psychological distress after three and six months were social in nature. The three factors that best predicted psychological distress after six months were psychological distress, loneliness, and dissatisfaction with one’s social network.
What do the results mean: These results indicate that treatment of the emotional effects of stroke may be equally as important as treatment of its physical effects in the long-term well-being of survivors. Therefore communication training for the clients friends and family should be included in the therapeutic process. In addition, finding social outlets for clients with a stroke and helping to integrate them into these social settings will be imperative for recovery.
Written by: Katherine Christ, honours Linguistics., Head of Research at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services
Source: Hilari, K., Northcott, S., Roy, P., Marshall, J., Wiggins, R. D., Chataway, J., & Ames, D. (2010). Psychological distress after stroke and aphasia: The first six months. Clinical Rehabilitation, 24 (2), 181-190.