Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway have published results of a study investigating the prevalence and effects of anxiety and/or depression in persons with chronic stroke, analyzing data from persons with and without aphasia admitted to local hospitals. Goals of the study included probing how aphasia affects the frequency and severity with which stroke survivors experience such non-language issues, and comparing findings from an aphasia group with equivalent findings from a non-aphasia group.

The investigators report data from 112 stroke survivors, all of whom were one year post-stroke, comprising 18 persons with aphasia (PWA) and 94 without aphasia. Subjects were administered the Norwegian Basic Aphasia Assessment (NBAA) to document either the absence of aphasia, or its presence and effects by modalities (e.g., auditory comprehension, naming, etc.). In addition, the subjects completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) to self-report anxiety and/or depression symptoms. The investigators analyzed relationships between the clinician-administered assessment scores and subjects’ self-report HADS ratings.

In self-reported symptoms of either anxiety or depression, data analyses did not reveal significant group differences between the 94 without aphasia and the 18 with aphasia. Within the PWA group of 18, however, the investigators documented a positive correlation between severity of certain aphasia symptoms and lower self-reported HADS scores. More severe reading and repetition difficulties, in particular, were shown to be significantly correlated with higher anxiety levels, greater depression, or both.

The authors note that the PWA in the current sample comprised individuals “mildly affected by aphasia” with “rather high scores on all subscales on the NBAA indicating mild aphasic symptoms.” If subsequent studies analyze data from more subjects with denser aphasic symptoms, it will be useful to compare anxiety and depression levels between such persons with severe aphasia and the 18 persons with mild aphasia and the 94 subjects without aphasia above. Such clinical studies contribute importantly to our understanding of the long-term effects of stroke, whether accompanied by aphasic symptoms or not.

For further reading:  H. Døli, T. Helland, W.A. Helland. 2017.  Self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression in chronic stroke patients with and without aphasia.  Aphasiology, 32, 1-18.

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