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Demoralization is prevalent in patients with life-limiting chronic illnesses, many of whom reside in rural areas. These patients also have an increased risk of disease-related psychosocial burden due to the unique health barriers in this population. However, the factors affecting demoralization in this cohort are currently unknown. This study aimed to examine demoralization amongst the chronically ill in Lithgow, a town in rural New South Wales, Australia, and identify any correlated demographic, physical, and psychosocial factors in this population.
A cross-sectional survey of 73 participants drawn from Lithgow Hospital, the adjoining retirement village and nursing home, assessing correlating demographic, physical, psychiatric, and psychosocial factors.
The total mean score of the DS-II was 7.8 (SD 26.4), and high demoralization scores were associated with the level of education (p = 0.01), comorbid condition (p = 0.04), severity of symptom burden (p = <0.001), depression (p = <0.001), and psychological distress (p = <0.001). Prevalence of serious demoralization in this population was 27.4% according to a cutoff of a DS-II score ≥11. Of those, 11 (15%) met the criteria for clinical depression, leaving 9 (12.3%) of the cohort demoralized but not depressed.
Significance of results
Prevalence of demoralization was high in this population. In line with the existing literature, demoralization was associated with the level of education, symptom burden, and psychological distress, demonstrating that demoralization is a relevant psychometric factor in rural populations. Further stratification of the unique biopsychosocial factors at play in this population would contribute to better understanding the burdens experienced by people with chronic illness in this population and the nature of demoralization.
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