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Peer-Befriending Study and the Impact on Aphasia

Aphasia is stressful, and that stress usually comes on suddenly due to a stroke or traumatic brain injury. One day, communication is simple, and the next day, communication is difficult.

Treating aphasia means also paying attention to the mood changes that may occur after a life-changing event. The Division of Language and Communication Science at City, University of London in the UK recently conducted a study on peer-befriending and whether it impacted depression after aphasia. The results were reported in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation.

What Is Peer-Befriending?

Peer-befriending is connecting with another person who has aphasia. It’s as simple as that. The study set up a small time commitment: six one-hour sessions (two per month).

In the trial, 56 people with aphasia after stroke were assigned either to an intervention group (to receive peer-befriending support as well as their usual care) or a ‘control’ group which received usual care. A peer-befriender, in this case, was another person with experience of aphasia after having a stroke.

People who connected with other people who had aphasia after a stroke experienced lower levels of depression.

Study Results

The study found that “peer-befriending when stroke patients with aphasia are discharged from hospital and active care is withdrawn may help reduce depressive symptoms.” This initial finding shows the need for a larger study, which may impact the post-stroke experience in the future.

This finding also gave new insight to our first Aphasia Snapshot, which looked at whether people with aphasia know and interact with other people who have aphasia. The 41.1% who did not know another person with aphasia may benefit from connecting with peers.

While there needs to be a larger study, it’s also knowledge that can be used immediately because there are no drawbacks to giving or getting support from someone who understands because they have been through something similar.

People with aphasia are 62% more likely to have depression following a stroke. This can impact speech therapy success and cause strain for the caregiver. Traditional spoken therapy may not be feasible if the person is experiencing aphasia.

Knowing all of these things, it’s important to help people newly diagnosed with aphasia connect with other people who have aphasia. They can do this by joining a support group through a clinic or attending one of our online chats.

Read more about the study in this journal excerpt at NIH.

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