The role of emotion regulation on social participation following stroke

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Following stroke, individuals often experience reduced social participation, regardless of physical limitations. Impairments may also occur in a range of cognitive and emotional functions. Successful emotion regulation, which has been identified as important in psychological adaptation to chronic illness, is associated with better perceived psychological well-being and social functioning. However, there is little evidence about the effect of stroke on emotion regulation difficulties, and associated impact on important outcomes in recovery from stroke.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives were (1) to determine whether people who have had a stroke reported greater difficulties in emotion regulation than controls and (2) to establish whether emotion regulation difficulties relate to social participation.

METHODS: 75 stroke and 40 healthy participants completed measures of emotion regulation (DERS), social participation (Modified Functional Limitation Profile [mFLP], WHOQoL-Bref) and activity limitations (mFLP). Stroke participants were seen at the acute stage (63 days post-stroke) for Study 1 and 18 months post-stroke for Study 2.

RESULTS: In Study 1, acute-stage stroke patients had significant impairments on impulse control, awareness of emotions, and strategies for emotion regulation. There was also evidence that emotion regulation difficulties (impulse control, awareness and clarity about emotions) were associated with social participation in the stroke sample, even after controlling for potential confounders. In Study 2, there was evidence that, in the chronic-stage post-stroke, difficulties with strategy and acceptance of emotions were associated with social participation restrictions. Whilst emotion regulation as a whole in the acute phase predicted social participation in the chronic phase of stroke, no one domain of emotion regulation was a significant predictor of social participation >1 year later.

DISCUSSION: These results indicate that multiple aspects of emotion regulation are impaired following stroke, with implications for social participation and recovery.

PRACTITIONER POINTS: This research highlights the following important clinical implications Following a stroke, emotion regulation can be immediately and persistently affected, with post-stroke individuals experiencing greater difficulties with their emotion regulation than control participants. Emotion regulation can significantly predict important stroke outcomes including social participation and quality of life, over and above physical limitations and other post-stroke confounders. This study highlights the potential for developing a behaviour change intervention to address emotion regulation difficulties and thus ensuring individuals maximize their potential rehabilitation outcome. Cautions of the study for consideration Emotion regulation was a self-report measure, and proxy measures would have been desirable. We are unable to establish if the post-stroke individuals differed from the controls on their emotion regulation prior to stroke.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-199
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date1 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2014 The British Psychological Society.


  • stroke
  • social participation
  • rehabilitation
  • emotion regulation
  • activity limitations


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