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J Psychosom Res. 2012 Mar;72(3):199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.12.005. Epub 2012 Jan 16.

Disease-related and psychosocial factors associated with depressive symptoms in patients with systemic sclerosis, including fear of progression and appearance self-esteem.

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Department of Rheumatology, Sint Maartenskliniek Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



The prevalence of depressive symptoms is high in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc, scleroderma). This study was conducted to determine which disease-related and psychosocial factors are associated with depressive symptoms, independent of sociodemographic factors.


In total, 215 patients with SSc completed questionnaires on sociodemographics, physical functioning (HAQ-DI), pain (VAS), fatigue (CIS), psychosocial characteristics (CISS, ICQ, PRQ, ASE, FoP-Q-SF) and depressive symptoms (CES-D). Disease characteristics (disease duration, disease subtype, modified Rodnan Skin Score) were collected. Hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted to assess associations with depressive symptoms.


The mean CES-D score was 12.9 (SD=9.7) and the prevalence of patients scoring>= 16 and>=19 were 32.1% and 25.1%, respectively. The variance explained by sociodemographics and disease characteristics was negligible (R(2)≤.09). Fatigue and pain were independently associated with depressive symptoms (R(2) change=.35). After adding psychological factors (R(2) change=.21), satisfaction with social support, emotion-focused coping and helplessness were also significantly associated with depressive symptoms. Higher fear of progression was associated with more depressive symptoms (P≤.01), and appearance self-esteem showed a marginally significant association (P=.08).


Depressive symptoms were common in the present sample of patients with SSc and were independently associated with pain, fatigue, social support, emotion-focused coping, helplessness and fear of progression. Results suggest that, in addition to assessment of disease characteristics, attention should be given also to psychosocial factors found to be associated with depressive symptoms. For the development and trialling of psychological interventions, fear of progression could be an important target.

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