Illness perceptions predict distress in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease

Priscilla Muscat, John Weinman, Emanuel Farrugia, Roberta Callus, Joseph Chilcot

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Background: Patients diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) report increased distress associated with their clinical diagnosis. Distress in patients with predialysis CKD, has been linked to several adverse events; including increased risk of hospitalisation, early dialysis initiation and even death, suggesting that distress is a matter of great concern during routine care in predialysis CKD. Aims: The present study aimed to assess the nature of illness perceptions and the level of distress in a CKD cohort diagnosed with different stages of kidney disease. It also aimed to explore the correlates of distress and to create a model for distress and its associated predictors making use of hierarchical regression analysis. Methods: A sample of 200 patients diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease were recruited for this study from the nephrology outpatient clinics of Mater Dei Hospital, Malta. The participants were assessed for their; illness perceptions, treatment beliefs, level of depression and anxiety, coping style, as well as treatment adherence. Routine clinical information was also collected for participants, including a co-morbidity score. Results: A percentage of 33.5% of the participants reported moderate distress, whilst 9.5% reported severe distress. Stronger illness identity, a perception of timeline as being increasingly chronic or cyclical in nature, greater consequences and higher emotional representations were associated with more advanced stages of CKD. In contrast, lower personal and treatment control and poorer illness coherence were associated with more advanced stages of CKD. Results from the hierarchical regression analysis showed that illness perceptions contributed significantly to distress over and above the clinical kidney factors. Being female, having low haemoglobin and specific illness perceptions including; perceptions of greater symptomatology, longer timeline, low personal control and strong emotional representations, as well as resorting to maladaptive coping, were all significantly associated with distress symptoms. Nevertheless, illness perceptions accounted for the greatest variance in distress thus indicating that the contribution of illness perceptions is greater than that made by the other known covariates. Conclusion: Illness perceptions hold a principal role in explaining distress in CKD, relative to other traditional covariates. For this reason, illness perceptions should be addressed as a primary modifiable component in the development of distress in CKD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
JournalBMC Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2021


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