Depression is prevalent among people living with chronic diseases, such as
multiple sclerosis (MS). Although most people with MS live normal lives, they
must manage symptoms and treatments that cause increased emotional and
psychological stress on a daily basis. Now, researchers from two universities
have found that people with MS who increase positive experiences decrease their
symptoms of depression and improve the overall quality of their lives.
As part of an ongoing NIH-funded study of people with MS, Alexa
Stuifbergen, professor of nursing and associate dean of research at The
University of Texas at Austin, and Lorraine Phillips, assistant professor in the
University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing, determined the extent to
which positive experiences influenced the health of people with MS. The
researchers found that a higher number of positive experiences was associated
with fewer symptoms of depression, fewer functional limitations, and better
quality of life in people with MS.
"Positive experiences significantly
affected the participants' perceptions of the quality of their lives and
symptoms of depression, even when taking into account age, education and
disease-related factors, such as mobility, vision and cognition," Phillips said.
"People with MS typically rate the quality of their lives lower than that of the
general population, so it is important for people with MS and clinicians
involved in their care to understand what factors may improve the quality of
Study participants recorded the frequency of positive
experiences in their lives, such as "I said 'thank you' and meant it," "I said
something pleasant to someone who didn't expect it," and "I exercised and felt
good about doing it." Phillips found that study participants who reported a
higher number of positive experiences also reported having lower levels of
symptoms of depression.
"By incorporating positive experiences or
behaviors into their lives, people with MS may be able to limit the additional
risks and costs of medical treatments for depression. Most of these positive
activities are extremely simple to perform and readily available." Phillips
said. "Health care providers should encourage people with MS to participate in
positive activities every day. Previous research found that people with MS
benefit more from frequent smaller activities like smelling fresh flowers,
talking with neighbors or writing letters, than they do from larger activities
like taking a week-long vacation or buying an expensive outfit that they can
only do once in awhile."
The study, "The Influence of Positive
Experiences on Depression and Quality of Life in Persons with Multiple
Sclerosis," was published in the March 2008 issue of The Journal of Holistic
"The current study was prompted by a suggestion from one of the
participants in the NIH-funded study. She helped us to develop the survey, which
has 35 items that describe activities that could improve mental or physical
health," Phillips said. "That's the beauty of this tool. These activities can be
adopted by people with other chronic illnesses."
----------------------------Article adapted by Medical News Today
from original press release.
Emily SmithUniversity of Missouri-Columbia