Benefits of wellness interventions for persons with chronic and disabling conditions: a review of the evidence

Disabil Health J. 2010 Jul;3(3):133-45. doi: 10.1016/j.dhjo.2009.10.007.


Background: Persons living with the effects of chronic and disabling conditions are often at increased risk for the development of secondary conditions and disabilities that can lead to further decline in health status, independence, functional status, life satisfaction, and overall quality of life.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to review the evidence for the benefits of wellness/health promotion interventions for persons with chronic and disabling conditions.

Methods: The authors conducted a Medline search (1990-2007) using terms related to wellness and health promotion cross-referenced with general terms for chronic and disabling conditions, as well as 15 specific chronic and/or disabling conditions (e.g., multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury). Selection of studies was limited to those published in English that reported randomized controlled trails or prospective studies that involved adult human subjects with a chronic and/or disabling condition. All selected studies focused on some aspect of a wellness or health promotion intervention and involved a comparison or control group. Of the 5,847 studies initially identified in the search using medical subject heading terms, 190 met the criteria for full review. Data were extracted from these publications and summarized using descriptive statistics.

Results: Almost all studies (95%) explored the effects of wellness intervention in a sample diagnosed with a single condition (e.g., cancer, stroke, arthritis). Although the mean sample size was 100, the range in sample size varied widely (6-688); 25% of the studies had sample of 30 or fewer. Almost all studies (89.5%) reported positive effects of the wellness intervention, although the delivery and content of interventions as well as the measurement of outcomes, varied greatly.

Conclusions: Our findings support an immediate post-intervention positive impact of wellness interventions across persons with a wide variety of chronic and disabling conditions. Future research that clearly specifies primary study outcomes and follows the CONSORT guidelines will strengthen future reviews of the evidence and facilitate application of the evidence of practice.

Keywords: Chronic Conditions; Disability; Health Promotion.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease / rehabilitation
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disabled Persons / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Social Marketing
  • Treatment Outcome*