A recent study has demonstrated the impact of depression on the quality of life of patients with Friedreich’s ataxia.

Most previous investigations investigating the quality of life of individuals with FA have focussed on a measure called the ‘health-related quality of life’ (HRQoL) - a holistic model of wellbeing that takes into consideration mental, emotional, and social factors as well as physical health. There is some disagreement how much each of these factors influences the wellbeing of FA patients and the specific relationship between HRQoL and depression in FA patients has not previously been studied.

Researchers in Spain conducted a study to determine the influence of depression and other variables on the HRQoL of FA patients. In a paper published in the Quality of Life Research journal, they reported on the results of an investigation conducted on a sample of 62 patients with genetically confirmed FA.

HRQoL was assessed using the SF-36 Health Survey, a self-reported quality of life assessment that measures 8 different dimensions of wellbeing, including mental, emotional, social and physical factors. Depressive symptoms were evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II), a self-rating questionnaire used to rank the severity of depressive symptoms as minimal, mild, moderate, or severe.

The results demonstrated that HRQoL was significantly reduced in FA patients compared to the general population, and was influenced by both physical and emotional factors. It is worth noting that although 24% of patients perceived that emotional problems limited their daily life, only 6% reported significant mental health problems when asked about them directly.

The average level of depression among patients was considered to be mild, but 28% of patients scored within the moderate/severe range. Higher scores of depression were associated a lower quality of life for all factors, except for physical functioning. Depression was shown to influence self-reported problems in daily activities caused by physical health, perceived pain and health status, feelings of tiredness and perceived limitations in social and daily activities due to emotional problems amongst the patients.

The researchers are hopeful that their findings will highlight the importance of recognising and treating depressive symptoms among FA patients. According to the researchers:

“The poor quality of life experienced by patients with Friedreich ataxia is only partially related to demographic or disease variables, with depressive symptomatology being the most relevant variable for predicting quality of life. Therefore, the recognition and adequate treatment of depression are essential to improve the subjective experience of quality of life of Friedreich ataxia patients.”

View the abstract of the paper here.

Posted on 21/11/2019