Study: Treat stroke patients' spouses for depression

Self-esteem, optimism and perceived control influence depression in stroke survivors and their spouse caregivers, who should be treated together, according to a study.

Researchers analyzed 112 depressed stroke survivors and their spouses up to eight weeks after the patient’s hospital discharge, and found self-esteem and optimism influenced each partner’s depression.

“We usually have been focused on the outcome of the stroke survivor, but we found that the self-esteem and optimism of the spouse caretaker is related to the patient’s depression,” Misook Chung, RN, PhD, a study author and an associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Nursing in Lexington, said in a news release. “When the spouse has a high level of self-esteem and optimism, the patient has lower levels of depression.”

The impact of spouses on patients’ depression often has been ignored, Chung said. “This is an innovative and early analysis that considers the stroke patients and their caretaker spouses as a unit, not individually.”

Researchers drew the cross-sectional study population from four hospitals in Indianapolis. The patients were 66% men (with an average age of 62), and their caregivers were 66% women (average age 60). They used four different questionnaires to assess depression, self-esteem, optimism and perceived control: Patient’s Health Questionnaire, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Sale, Revised Life Orientation Test and Sense of Control Scale.

Depression is common in stroke survivors and in their spouse caregivers, the researchers said. The interdependent relationship among the pair in stroke rehabilitation means that improving depression may depend on each partner’s characteristics.

“Intervention needs to be given not only to the patient but to the caregiver spouse to maximize the patient’s outcome,” Chung said. “Maintaining an optimistic and positive view is very important not only for the patient but for the caregiver spouse so that quality of care for the patient can be improved.”

The study was presented Feb. 6 in Honolulu at the American Stroke Association’s international conference. The study abstract is available at

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