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Stress, Illness Perceptions, Behaviours and Healing in Venous Leg Ulcers: Findings From a Prospective Observational Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jessica Walburn, John Weinman, Sam Norton, Matthew Hankins, Karen Dawe, Bolatito Banjoko, Kavita Vedhara

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Early online date9 Dec 2016
Accepted/In press28 Nov 2016
E-pub ahead of print9 Dec 2016


King's Authors


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the impact of stress, illness perceptions and behaviours on healing of venous leg ulcers.

METHODS: A prospective observational study of 63 individuals for 24 weeks investigated possible psychosocial predictors of healing. There were two indices of healing: rate of change in ulcer area and number of weeks to heal. Psychological variables were assessed at baseline using self-report measures (Perceived Stress Scale, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire, adapted Summary of Diabetes Self-Care Activities, Adherence Questionnaire and Short-Form Health Survey).

RESULTS: Controlling for socio-demographic and clinical variables, over the 24 weeks a slower rate of change in ulcer area was predicted by greater stress (standardised beta =-0.61, p=0.008); depression (standardised beta =-0.51, p=0.039); holding negative perceptions or beliefs about the ulcer (standardised beta =-1.4, p=0.045). By 24 weeks 69% of ulcers had closed. A more negative emotional response to the ulcer at baseline, (i.e., emotional representation of the ulcer), was associated with a greater number of weeks to heal [Hazard Ratio (HR) = 0.63, 95% CI 0.41 - 0.95, p=0.028]. Higher educational attainment (HR= 3.22, 95% CI 1.37 - 7.55, p=0.007) and better adherence to compression bandaging (HR= 1.41 95% CI 1.06 - 1.88, p=0.019) were associated with fewer weeks to heal. No other psychosocial variable (stress; perceptions about the ulcer; health behaviours) predicted weeks to heal.

CONCLUSIONS: Alongside ulcer-related predictors, psychological and sociodemographic factors were associated with healing. Future research should explore mediating mechanisms underlying these associations and develop interventions to target these variables.

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