Physical Disability and Psychological Distress

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ABSTRACT.This paper presents evidence on the relationship between physical disability and risk for psychological distress and disorder. Data were obtained from a large and representative sample of physically disabled persons resident in the community and from nondisabled comparison subjects matched in age, sex, and area of residence. Distress was assessed in terms of depressive symptomatology (measured by the CES-D), anxiety (measured by a modification of Speilberger's State Anxiety Scale), and major depressive disorder (estimated by the DIS). Disabled individuals were found to be at substantially elevated risk for anxiety, for depressive symptoms, and for major depressive disorder. These results also suggest that more severely disabled individuals exhibit higher levels of psychological distress. It is argued that these findings can most plausibly be attributed to chronic stress that tends to characterize the life circumstance and experience of disabled individuals.

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