Psychological resources in spinal cord injury: a systematic literature review

Spinal Cord. 2012 Mar;50(3):188-201. doi: 10.1038/sc.2011.125. Epub 2011 Nov 29.


Study design: Systematic literature review.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to gain a systematic overview of the role of psychological resources in the adjustment to spinal cord injury (SCI).

Methods: A systematic literature review was performed. The literature search was conducted in the databases Pubmed, PsycINFO, the Social Sciences Citation Index, the Education Resources Information Center, Embase and the Citation Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature. The assessed variables, measurement instruments, results and the methodological quality of the studies were extracted, summarized and evaluated.

Results: A total of 83 mainly cross-sectional studies were identified. Psychological resources were categorized into seven groups: self-efficacy (SE), self-esteem, sense of coherence (SOC), spirituality, optimism, intellect and other personality characteristics. SE and self-esteem were consistently associated with positive adjustment indicators such as high well-being and better mental health. Interrelations between psychological resources and key rehabilitation outcome variables such as participation were rarely studied. Only a few interventions, which were aimed at strengthening psychological resources were identified. Longitudinal studies suggested that SE, SOC, spirituality and purpose in life were potential determinants of adjustment outcomes in the long term.

Conclusion: Research on psychological resources in SCI is broad, but fragmented. Associations of psychological resources with mental health and well-being were frequently shown, while associations with participation were rarely studied. Further development of resource-based interventions to strengthen persons with SCI is indicated. This review can serve as guide for clinical practice and can add to the design of future SCI research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality / physiology
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Self Efficacy
  • Sense of Coherence / physiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology*
  • Spirituality