Depression and multiple sclerosis can occur hand in hand.
People with multiple sclerosis—MS—who feel stigmatized are more likely to suffer from depression, according to researchers, who add that having a support system of friends and family and a sense of autonomy may help reduce the harmful effects of stigma.
As part of an ongoing research project, people living with MS who reported higher levels of stigma also reported more symptoms of depression and were more likely to meet the thresholds for clinical depression. By using a longitudinal methodology, which gathers data from the same people over time, the researchers conclude that stigma is likely to be a cause of depression.
Researchers have known for some time that people with MS have high rates of depression, but had limited data on why depression rates were so high, said Margaret Cadden, a doctoral student in psychology at Penn State and lead author of the study.
“About 50 percent of people with MS will have depression during their lifetime compared to 17 percent of the general public, but the causes of these high rates of depression in MS are not well understood,” said Cadden. “Our study helps identify stigma as an important social contributor.”
Stigma is the experience of being set apart and seen as less than others because of a personal characteristic or group membership, according to the researchers, whose findings have just been published online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal, Social Science & Medicine.
“Research suggests that having a chronic illness can make people feel isolated, separated and judged,” said Cadden. “People living with MS know that they have a disease that’s currently incurable, and that often brings a host of symptoms that may contribute to people becoming stigmatized.”
Symptoms of MS include motor impairment, visual problems, fatigue, pain, speech problems and cognitive difficulties, added Cadden.
Having stronger social bonds can create a psychological buffer that may help alleviate some of stigma’s negative effects, said Jonathan Cook, assistant professor of psychology, Penn State, and the study’s senior author.
|Source: Stigma increases risk of depression for people with multiple sclerosis|