Spirituality linked to higher quality of life for stroke survivors

London, May 26 (IANS) Higher spirituality among stroke survivors was strongly linked to a better quality of life for them and their caregivers who may also feel depressed, say researchers.


For many stroke survivors, a caregiver, often a family member or a close friend, may help with the daily tasks, making the survivor and the caregiver prone to depression. Depression can impact the quality of life for both.


"Research shows that spirituality may help some patients cope with illness, yet few studies have looked at its effects on the quality of life among the stroke survivors and their long-term care partners, who are at increased risk for depression," said lead study author Gianluca Pucciarelli from the University of Rome.


For the findings, published in the journal ‘Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes', roughly 200 stroke survivors in Italy, with low-to-medium disabilities and no other major health issues, and their caregivers completed questionnaires measuring spirituality, depression and quality of life between 2016 and 2018.


Women and men were nearly equally represented among the stroke survivors, and their average age was 71 years. Among the caregivers, women comprised nearly two-thirds, and their average age was 52.


Spirituality is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an individual's perception of life within the context of the culture and value systems of the society and in relation to the individual's goals, expectations, standards and concerns.


According to the researchers, quality of life was measured with a 26-item WHO questionnaire on physical, psychological, social and environmental aspects. In this analysis, those who scored one standard deviation above average were considered to have "higher spirituality."


The findings showed a strong relationship between the degree of spirituality and the quality of life even if the caregivers were depressed.


Stroke survivors who scored above average on the spirituality questionnaire reported higher psychological quality of life even when their caregivers reported symptoms of depression. Similarly, caregivers with above-average spirituality scores reported better physical and psychological quality of life.


In contrast, stroke survivors who scored below average on the spirituality questionnaire had lower quality of life, overall, as did their caregivers with depression symptoms.


"In summary, when care partners feel depressed, something that is common for stroke caregivers, the survivor's spirituality made the difference in whether this was associated with better or worse quality of life," Pucciarelli said.


This demonstrates the important protective role of spirituality in illness. The researchers noted that the findings called for greater awareness on the importance of spirituality among health professionals.