Psychosocial Distress and Health Service Utilization in Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis: A Prospective Study

Psychosomatics. Jul-Aug 2019;60(4):385-392. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2018.10.001. Epub 2018 Oct 10.


Background: End-stage renal disease is associated with significant morbidity, high-symptom burden, and health care use. Studies have not yet assessed psychosocial distress and health care utilization in this population.

Objective: This study examines psychosocial distress and its association with hospitalization and emergency room (ER) visits in patients on maintenance hemodialysis (HD).

Methods: The Distress Assessment and Response Tool (DART) was administered to 80 adults on HD in a single treatment center. The DART assessed for anxiety, depression, and social distress. Health care utilization data were extracted prospectively from electronic medical charts. The time between psychosocial distress and hospitalization or ER visits during 12-month follow-up was examined using Cox proportional hazard models.

Results: Overall 46% of the sample reported psychosocial distress, with 33% screening above the threshold for depression, 14% for anxiety, and 36% for significant social distress. In multivariable regression adjusting for age, sex, and comorbidity, the presence of psychosocial distress was associated with shorter time to hospitalization (hazard ratio: 2.4 [1.1, 5.0], p = 0.03) during 12-month follow-up. Psychosocial distress was not significantly associated with ER visits in either univariable (hazard ratio: 1.3 [0.7, 2.3], p = 0.5) or multivariable (hazard ratio: 1.4 [0.8, 2.6], p = 0.3) analyses.

Conclusion: Psychosocial distress is frequent in patients undergoing maintenance HD and is associated with shorter time to hospitalization. Future longitudinal studies should examine if health service use can be reduced through routine distress screening and psychosocial distress intervention.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; dialysis; distress; health utilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / psychology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Renal Dialysis / psychology*

Grant support