Social Dysfunction in Patients with Chronic Illness

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Professor, Consultant Pathologist, American Board Certified Pathologist, Fellow College of American Pathologists. Areas of interest Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology, Cytology, Cancer, Ethics, Islam, Humanity

Social Dysfunction in Patients with Chronic Illness

Hamid Rashid Khawaja*, Muneeza Hamid**
*AIMS,** AJKMC, Muzaffarabad.
Kashmir Surgical & General Hospital, Muzaffarabad


Background: Social dysfunction refers to an undesirable behavior pattern or disturbed social interaction, performance, self-perception and self-system which results in decreased self-care and increased distress in the life of individual. Chronic illness is the major reason behind social dysfunction. Both, the psychiatric chronic illness (depression, anxiety, psychotic disorders) and non-psychiatric chronic illness (diabetes, stroke, heart disease etc.) can lead to social dysfunction.
Objectives: The study has been carried out for the purpose of exploring the level of social dysfunction among patients with chronic illness and to analyze the demographic factors associated with it.
Methodology: A total number of 300 patients of chronic illness were selected from psychiatric and medical OPDs of Abbas Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) Muzaffarabad using purposive sampling technique. Socio-demographic data was collected and then a 21-item standard scale of Linn (social dysfunction rating scale) was used to measure the social dysfunction of patients. Medical records of patients were also observed.
Results: It was found that 74% of the patients of chronic illness suffer from mild to severe degree of social dysfunction (where criteria for chronic illness=1 year or more). Among these, 47% had moderate level of social dysfunction, while 6% had severe degree of social dysfunction. Results also indicate that 35% of the patients had psychiatric illness (among which 20.3% had depression) while 65% had non-psychiatric chronic illness (among which 9.9% had Ischemic Heart Disease). 23% comorbidity was present. Most of the chronically ill patients were females (57%). 67% of the patients were on regular treatment for their chronic illness.
Conclusion: There exists a high level (74%) of social dysfunction among patients with chronic illness. Both psychiatric and non-psychiatric chronic illnesses lead to social dysfunction. The rate of social dysfunction was found higher among psychiatric illnesses as compared to non-psychiatric illnesses. The study also highlighted the issue that social functioning of the patients is generally ignored when treatment plans are formulated; which is the major factor behind high rate of social dysfunction in chronic illness. Other factors; age, employment status, gender and education, are also associated with social dysfunction. Counselling services need to be developed in hospitals in order to improve the level of social functioning of patients with chronic illnesses.


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