No one looks forward to having a surgical procedure. But according to a recent study led by Michael N. Mavros at the Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS) in Greece, positive people with good mental health have a better outlook for recovery when compared to negative people and those with psychological issues prior to surgery.
Psychological health and well-being have been repeatedly shown to play critical roles in overall health. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems can weaken immune systems and make one more susceptible to illness and disease. Studies have demonstrated the positive effects of psychosocial interventions on cancer patients and other people living with chronic illnesses. But how does psychological well-being prior to a surgical procedure affect the recovery process?
Psychoneuroimmunology suggests that positive psychological states help aid in the healing process while negative psychological conditions diminish the healing process by disrupting the regulation and production of adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones. Although there is a general consensus that well-being will improve recovery, Mavros wanted more conclusive evidence.
To find it, Mavros searched existing studies and discovered 16 research studies that addressed well-being and surgical outcomes. Of them, 15 supported a direct association linking psychological well-being and postoperative recovery. Specifically, the studies identified anger, anxiety, depression, relationship stress, hostility, and maladaptive coping as factors that could negatively impact recovery.
In contrast, optimism, anger control, religiousness, and minimal pain expectations all positively affected the healing process. Strategies such as meditation, relaxation, family and couple visits and psychiatric interventions also seemed to help aid recovery.
Mavros added, “Although the heterogeneity of the available evidence precludes any safe conclusions, psychological variables appear to be associated with early surgical recovery; this association could bear important implications for clinical practice.” For instance, psychiatric intervention prior to surgery could be beneficial for many clients. Also, Mavros noted that if the surgery is elective, individuals who are struggling with psychological issues might consider scheduling their procedure for a later date so that they can give themselves the best opportunity for recovery.
Mavros, M.N., Athanasiou, S., Gkegkes, I.D., Polyzos, K.A., Peppas, G., et al. (2011). Do psychological variables affect early surgical recovery? PLoS ONE 6(5): e20306. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020306
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