Disability Identity Predicts Lower Anxiety and Depression in Multiple Sclerosis

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Purpose/Objective:Disability identity involves affirming one's status as a person with a disability and incorporating this group membership into one's identity. It is associated with well-being in populations of people with disabilities, but its relationship with depression and anxiety in multiple sclerosis (MS) has yet to be examined. It was hypothesized that disability identity would predict lower depression and anxiety above and beyond the effects of demographic and disability variables.Research Method/Design:One hundred and six participants with MS completed a cross-sectional Internet survey measuring disability identity, depression and anxiety, activities of daily living performance, MS duration, and demographic variables. Inclusion criteria were as follows: self-reported diagnosis of MS, self-reported impairment in walking, age 18 or older, living in the United States, and English fluency.Results:Hierarchical regressions revealed that disability identity was a unique predictor of lower depression and anxiety. Older age and higher activities of daily living performance also predicted lower depression and anxiety.Conclusions/Implications:Stronger disability identity predicts lower psychological distress in MS. Clinical implications include supporting patient disability identity by encouraging involvement in disability support and advocacy groups. Future research should examine psychosocial interventions to affirm identity.

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