Although depression strikes about one-third of all stroke victims, male stroke survivors are more likely to develop depression than females, a small new study suggests.
Researchers believe a man’s need to be in control over his own health may trigger this setback. Many male stroke survivors “may be accustomed to, and value highly, being in control of their health,” said study author Michael McCarthy, Ph.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Health Sciences School of Social Work.
“For these individuals, loss of control due to infirmity caused by stroke could be perceived as a loss of power and prestige. These losses, in turn, may result in more distress and greater depressive syndromes.”
For the study, researchers recruited 36 participants who had experienced a first stroke within the last 36 months. Of these stroke survivors, 16 were women and 20 were men.
The patients were evaluated for symptoms of depression as well as the ability to perform routine activities, such as bathing and cutting food. Researchers also assessed how much uncertainty the survivors had about their health or the outcome of their stroke.
The patients had to agree or disagree with certain statements, such as “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” and “I have a lot of questions without answers.”
The research found uncertainty about health is strongly linked to greater depression for all participants. The researchers added, however, that this association is stronger in men.
The results also reveal that talking with stroke survivors and their family members in a clear, easy to understand way about the patient’s health “may be an effective approach for reducing survivor distress and, ultimately, for improving rehabilitation outcomes,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy adds that future research with individuals from many different social and economic backgrounds should result in better information on how gender and health-related beliefs affect stroke outcomes.
More research might also shed light on how women, when compared to men, seem relatively protected from post-stroke depression.
The study is published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Source: University of Cincinnati