Trajectories of psychological distress after stroke

Jennifer H. White, Parker Magin, John Attia, Jonathan Sturm, Gregory Carter, Michael Pollack

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30 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE There has been little exploration of the distinct trajectories of psychological distress after stroke and the factors that predict recovery from distress. These trajectories may assist primary care physicians by providing insight into disease onset, progression, and resolution and may be a useful way to conceptualize and understand the pattern of psychological morbidity in stroke over time. We undertook a longitudinal qualitative study to explore poststroke psychological trajectories METHODS The primary data collection method was semistructured interviews with community-dwelling stroke survivors in metropolitan Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Our sample included 23 participants (12 men, 10 women; age range 37 to 94 years) discharged from a tertiary referral hospital after a stroke; these participants subsequently participated in a total of 106 interviews over 12 months. Qualitative outcomes were participants' perceptions at baseline, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Thematic saturation was achieved. RESULTS Most participants were male (54%) and had a partial anterior circulation infarction stroke subtype (57%). Four different longitudinal trajectories were identified: resilience (n = 5); ongoing crisis (n = 5), emergent mood disturbance (n = 3), and recovery from mood disturbance (n = 10). Recovery from mood disturbance was facilitated by gains in independence and self-esteem and by having an internal health locus of control. CONCLUSIONS Stroke survivors experienced a variety of psychological trajectories. Identifying distinct trajectories of psychological morbidity may help primary care physicians develop appropriately timed interventions to promote better mental health. Interventions require implementation over a longer duration than the current outpatient services that, in Australia, are typically provided in the first few months after stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-442
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Family Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Qualitative research
  • Stroke

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