Pseudobulbar affect: burden of illness in the USA

Adv Ther. 2012 Sep;29(9):775-98. doi: 10.1007/s12325-012-0043-7. Epub 2012 Aug 30.


Introduction: Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is characterized by involuntary and uncontrollable laughing and/or crying episodes, occurring secondary to neurological disease or injury. The impact of PBA on social and occupational function, health status, quality of life (QOL), and quality of relationships (QOR) is not well studied.

Methods: This US survey conducted by Harris Interactive compared health status and daily function of patients with and without PBA. Eligible respondents were Harris Panel Online registrants previously diagnosed with stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or primary, nonpaid caregivers for such patients who were too debilitated to participate. PBA was identified by a Center for Neurologic Study lability scale score of 13 or greater. Measures included the 36-item short form health survey (SF-36), the work productivity and impairment (WPAI) questionnaire, visual analog scales (VAS) for impact of PBA symptoms on QOL and QOR, and customized questions related to burden and impact of involuntary laughing/crying episodes on patients' lives. Survey responses were weighted to adjust for the relative proportion of the primary neurological conditions in the overall population and between group differences in patient age and gender. PBA and non-PBA group responses were compared using two-tailed t tests adjusted for severity of the primary neurological conditions.

Results: The 1,052 respondents included 399 PBA group participants and 653 controls. The PBA group showed significantly worse scores versus non-PBA controls on component and summary SF-36 scores (P<0.05 for all), VAS scores (P<0.05 for both), and WPAI scores (P<0.05). Among PBA group respondents, PBA contributed a great deal to or was the main cause of patients becoming housebound for 24% and being moved to supervised living placement for 9% of respondents.

Conclusion: PBA is associated with considerable burden incremental to that of the underlying neurological conditions, affecting QOL, QOR, health status, and social and occupational functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / etiology
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / complications
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / psychology
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Crying
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Efficiency
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Laughter
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / psychology
  • United States
  • Work / psychology