Arthritis & health problems

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Arthritis is one of the common long-standing health problems, which affects about 69 million Americans, results in 39 million medical consultations, and requires 500, 000 hospitalizations each year. About 33 % have significant disability and are unable to perform normal activities (more severe in elders) such as difficulty sleeping. Individuals belong to lower socio-economic backgrounds, single, African-Americans, and those having other medical problems are at a greater risk of suffering from stress in relation to arthritis.

Some of the common sources of social support include family and friends who helped to reduce daily stress, reduce depressive mood, and improve levels of satisfaction. The study was performed to determine the effect of social support on physical disability following daily stress. Factors such as age, gender, ethnic group, martial status, education, financial status, duration and complications, were considered. The survey instruments used were questionnaires (including arthritis impact measurement scales or AIMS, elderly daily stress or EDS, Personal resource questionnaire and personal information sheet).

AIMS measured walking, mobility, and hand and finger movement, on a five point scale, and each question carried points ranging from 0 to 5, and the total range expected was from 0 to 60. The subjects were selected (above the age of 60) from members belonging to several arthritis foundations, senior citizens groups, and visitors to a shopping store. EDS measured the extent to which the individual developed daily stress following irritation and frustration. The responses were graded on a five point scale, and scores between 50 and 200 were obtainable.

The Personal resource questionnaire was utilized to determine the aspects of social support including available attachment, social integration, nurturing behavior, worthiness reassurance, and availability of support. Only individuals suffering from arthritis for more than a year and living in a community were part of this trial. 71 out of the 115 (62 %) individuals approached agreed to become a part of this trial. The average ages of the subjects was 71 years, most were females and Whites, and had arthritis for about 11 years.

Most individuals felt that social support decreased with an increase in the physical disability and daily stress levels. Married individuals felt that the social support was higher and the physical disability was lower (as physical disability had a greater effect on daily stress when social support was not present). This study worked on the theory of Lazarus and Folkman (1984) which said that stressful emotions may develop when the individuals feel that the demands of the situation exceed their resources (when they feel the physical disability associated with arthritis is difficult to get through).

This daily stress could be relieved through social support to some extent (as other factors also played a role). Stress could also result in poor outcomes and lead to depression. An effective coping plan should be developed to handle stress such as focusing on the positive aspects of negative outcomes, positive cognitive appraisal, reading, swimming, social activities, etc. Critique – Further studies are required to determine the link between daily stress, physical disability and social support. The researchers have not concentrated or specified on the type of social support.

They have not differentiated social support from family support and have instead generalized the social support. The article has demonstrated that not only is social support required to lower the physical disability and daily stress associated with arthritis, but also several other factors. The study was not representative of the population that actually developed arthritis. Only about 25 % males were assessed, and 4 % were African-Americans. The actually incidences of arthritis in these segments of the population is slightly higher, and hence the findings of the study may not be very accurate.

The survey instruments included a questionnaire that was filled up by the subjects. No interview was conducted, and hence the chances of the subjects not understanding the question and giving inaccurate answers were high. Confidentiality is maintained in this study, as the subjects had to return their questionnaires through sealed envelopes. The researchers have quoted another study by Blackburn-Munro Et al, 2001, in which stress ahs been suggested as the biggest risk factor for depression.

However, they have not specified the type of stress that could lead to depression (physical or mental). The average time period that the subjects had arthritis for was about 11 years. The study should have attempted to determine the relationships between social support, physical disability and daily stress on populations that have suffered from arthritis for a shorter duration. References: Tak, S. H. , Hong, S. H. , & Kennedy, R. (2007). “Daily stress in elders with arthritis. ” Nursing and Health Sciences, 9, 29–33.

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