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Why do people lose their friends after a stroke?

Northcott, S. & Hilari, K. (2011). Why do people lose their friends after a stroke?. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 46(5), pp. 524-534. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00079.x


Background: It is well-known that people lose friends after a stroke; what is less well understood is why this occurs.

Aims: This study explored why people lose contact with their friends, and whether there are any protective factors. It also examined how friendship loss and change is perceived by the individual.

Methods and Procedures: Participants with a first stroke were recruited from one acute stroke unit in the UK. In-depth qualitative interviews took place between 8 and 15 months post stroke.

Outcomes and Results: 29 participants were recruited of whom 10 had aphasia. The main reasons given for losing friends were: loss of shared activities, reduced energy levels, physical disability, aphasia, unhelpful responses of others, environmental barriers, and changing social desires. The subset of participants who experienced the most extensive loss of friends were those who described a sense that they were ‘closing in’ on themselves leading to a withdrawal from social contact and a new preference for meeting only close friends and family. Those with aphasia experienced the most hurtful negative responses from others and found it more difficult to retain their friends unless they had strong supportive friendship patterns prior to the stroke. The factors which helped to protect friendships included: having a shared history, friends who showed concern, who lived locally, where the friendship was not activity-based, and where the participant had a ‘friends-based’ social network prior to the stroke.

Conclusions and Implications: Given the link between depression and loss of friends post stroke, supporting an individual in maintaining a social network is likely to be beneficial. For intervention to be effective, however, it may need to take into account not only the impact of new physical and language disabilities, but also changing social desires.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: friendship, stroke, aphasia, social networks, social support, SOCIAL NETWORK TYPE, LATER LIFE, OLD-AGE, APHASIA, DISABILITY, SUPPORT, DEPRESSION
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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