Prediction of Psychological Distress Among Persons With Spinal Cord Injury or Acquired Brain Injury and Their Significant Others

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2020 Dec;101(12):2093-2102. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2020.05.023. Epub 2020 Jun 27.


Objectives: To identify intra- and interpersonal sociodemographic, injury-related, and psychological variables measured at admission of inpatient rehabilitation that predict psychological distress among dyads of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) or acquired brain injury (ABI) and their significant others (ie, individuals close to the individual with a disability, mostly family members) 6 months after discharge. Differences in predictors were investigated for persons with SCI or ABI and their significant others and were compared between diagnoses.

Design: Prospective longitudinal study.

Setting: Twelve Dutch rehabilitation centers.

Participants: Dyads (N=157) consisting of adults with SCI or ABI who were admitted to inpatient rehabilitation and their adult significant others.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: Psychological distress (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale).

Results: Sociodemographic and injury-related variables were not or were only weakly associated with psychological distress among individuals with SCI or ABI and their significant others 6 months after discharge. Bivariately, higher baseline psychological distress, lower scores on adaptive psychological characteristics (combination of self-efficacy, proactive coping, purpose in life, resilience), and higher scores on maladaptive psychological characteristics (combination of passive coping, neuroticism, appraisals of threat and loss) were related to higher psychological distress, as well as crosswise between individuals with SCI or ABI and their significant others, although less strongly. Combined prediction models showed that psychological distress among persons with SCI or ABI was predicted by education level of their significant other, their own baseline psychological distress, and their own maladaptive psychological characteristics (explained variance, 41.9%). Among significant others, only their own baseline psychological distress predicted psychological distress (explained variance, 40.4%). Results were comparable across diagnoses.

Conclusions: Although a dyadic connection was shown, primarily one's own baseline psychological distress and psychological characteristics were important in the prediction of later psychological distress among both individuals with SCI or ABI and their significant others. Screening based on these variables could help to identify persons at risk for psychological distress.

Keywords: Brain injuries; Caregivers; Mental health; Rehabilitation; Spinal cord injuries.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Discharge
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychological Distress*
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / psychology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Young Adult