Spirituality may lead to an improved quality of life for stroke survivors, caregivers

DALLAS, Texas — For many people, the power of faith can be just as important to their health as the most potent medication. For stroke victims and their caregivers, a study finds being spiritual can improve their every day life as well.

The American Heart Association (AHA) released a study using an analysis of 200 stroke survivors in Italy. All of these participants suffered from low-to-medium health issues or disabilities. The study also surveyed caregivers, with a focus on their levels of spirituality, depression, and quality of life between 2016 and 2018. The average age of the group was 71 years-old. While the mix of stroke victims was fairly split however, two-thirds of caregivers were women around the age of 52.

“Research shows that spirituality may help some patients cope with illness, yet few studies have looked at its effects on quality of life among stroke survivors and their long-term care partners, who are at increased risk for depression,” says lead study author Gianluca Pucciarelli in an AHA release.

Spirituality can fight off depression

The study featured 26 questions from the World Health Organization (WHO), which measure physical, psychological, social, and environmental factors of wellbeing.

Survivors who had an above-average score, said their physical and psychological quality of life improved. Despite their caregivers reporting some symptoms of depression, this connection remained true. Caregivers with above-average spirituality scores also reported higher quality of life when it came to spirituality and physicality. Stroke survivors and caregivers who had lower quality of life reported more depression symptoms.

“In summary, when care partners feel depressed, something that is common for stroke caregivers, the survivor’s spirituality made the difference in whether this was associated with better or worse quality of life. This demonstrates the important protective role of spirituality in illness, and why we must study it more,” Pucciarelli adds.

Pucciarelli emphasizes the need to further the study of spirituality in connection with quality of life; adding holistic values to a stroke survivor’s vitality can be beneficial. The researchers note their findings only focus on survivors with low-to-medium health issues, leaving room to research those with more severe disabilities and the power of faith.

“Our study emphasizes the importance of viewing stroke survivors holistically, as a patient with symptoms and disabilities, and as an individual with emotional needs and part of an interdependent unit with their care partner,” Pucciarelli concludes.

The study appears in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

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