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Assessing depression rates in people with spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injury (SCI), which can cause irreversible paralysis, loss of sensation, and chronic pain, is a serious public health concern. Many people with SCI experience psychological, social, and neurological issues as a direct result of their injuries, which can significantly decrease quality of life. As a result, it is important for clinicians to identify psychological disorders in patients with SCI so that they can receive timely, effective interventions.

A recent Brazilian study reviewed five existing measures used by clinicians to screen SCI patients for depression. Researchers examined existing literature from the last decade related to depression assessments in patients with SCI to identify the most commonly used measures, which include the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). The researchers found that:

  • These measures varied somewhat in their results; that is, some showed higher depression rates than others, ranging from mild to severe.
  • The PHQ-9 was the most broadly used measure, but only in the United States.
  • Most of these measures indicated that, among individuals with SCI, young men were most likely to experience symptoms of depression, suggesting that this population may have an increased need for specialized interventions.

The physical and emotional problems associated with SCI can seriously decrease an individual’s quality of life. Fortunately, multiple clinical measures can accurately diagnose symptoms of depression in people with SCI, allowing clinicians to provide their patients with effective interventions that can decrease the negative psychological outcomes associated with this kind of injury. Although different measures may report slightly different rates of depression, these assessments are valuable tools for identifying psychological disorders in individuals with SCI.

Placeres AF & Fiorati RC. Assessment instruments and depression rates in people with spinal cord injury: a systematic review. Journal of School of Nursing. (2018).


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