Depression and life satisfaction in aging polio survivors versus age-matched controls: relation to postpolio syndrome, family functioning, and attitude toward disability

B J Kemp, B M Adams, M L Campbell
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1997, 78 (2): 187-92

OBJECTIVE: To compare depressive symptoms and life satisfaction in aging polio survivors with age-matched controls and to relate these outcomes to scores to psychosocial and disability-related variables.

DESIGN: A planned medical, functional, and psychosocial study with multivariate analyses.

SETTING: A large, urban rehabilitation center.

PARTICIPANTS: A volunteer sample of 121 polio survivors and an age-matched control group of 60 people with similar sociodemographic backgrounds.

MAIN OUTCOMES: Depression as measured by the Geriatric Depression Scale and an 11-item life satisfaction scale.

RESULTS: The prevalence of depressive disorders was not significantly different in the two groups, although the postpolio group tended to have more symptomatology and an overall depressive disorder prevalence of 28%. Some life satisfaction scale scores were significantly lower in the postpolio group, especially those concerned with health. People with postpolio syndrome scored significantly higher on depression scales and lower on some life satisfaction scales than people with a history of polio but without postpolio syndrome. Several psychosocial variables, most notably family functioning and attitude toward disability, helped to mediate this effect. Among people with significant depression, there was little, evidence of adequate treatment in the community.

CONCLUSIONS: Postpolio by itself does not relate to higher depression scores or lower life satisfaction. Postpolio syndrome has some relation to depression, but family functioning and attitude toward disability are more important. There is a need for better community-based psychological services.

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