Aims and objectives: To explore varied forms of psychological distress and to determine the mediating influence of psychological distress on functional outcomes in stroke patients. Background: Previous studies attest to the influence of depression on poststroke functional recovery. While there is evidence for neuropathological deficits that occur after stroke to be associated with psychological distress, few studies have explored the effect of various types of psychological distress on functional recovery. Design: A cross-sectional study was used. Methods: Data were collected from 178 first-time stroke patients. Study variables included demographic and disease characteristics (stroke location and stroke syndrome classification), psychological distress (the Chinese language version of the Emotional and Social Dysfunction Questionnaire) and functional outcome (Barthel index). Regression and mediation models were used to evaluate the effect of psychological distress on functional outcome. Results: Results revealed that stroke patients experience various forms of mild psychological distress, including anger, helplessness, emotional dyscontrol, indifference, inertia and euphoria, after stroke. Regression and mediation analyses further confirmed that various forms of psychological distress significantly mediated the effect of severe stroke syndromes on functional dependence. Conclusion: The various forms of psychological distress after stroke might play a mediating role in functional recovery and explain how stroke severity affects functional dependence. Relevance to clinical practice: By understanding the nature of various forms of psychological distress, healthcare professionals should adopt appropriate assessment instruments and design effective interventions to help improve mental and physical function of stroke patients.
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