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Researchers to investigate the emotional impact of Axial Spondyloarthritis

Researchers from King’s College Hospital and the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences receive funding to explore the impact of Axial Spondyloarthritis on mental health.

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Axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) is a long-term inflammatory condition characterised by persistent back pain, stiffness and fatigue that can negatively impact physical function, work capacity, personal relationships and mental health. The prevalence of people with AxSpA in Europe who report anxiety and depression is 39% and 34% respectively, and increased rates of self-harm - compared to people without inflammatory arthritis - have been identified.

To date, there has been little research carried out to understand the emotional impact of AxSpA on patients. To address this, researchers from King’s College Hospital and the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences have been awarded funding from the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society to explore patient perceptions about their emotional well-being and identify barriers and facilitators to positive mental health.

Led by Dr Nicky Wilson, consultant physiotherapist at King’s College Hospital, the team - which includes patient research partner Laura Regis, medical sociologist Dr Heidi Lempp, consultant psychologist Dr Jane Hutton and consultant rheumatologist Dr Sophia Steer - will draw on qualitative research approaches and multi-level data analysis to provide a detailed understanding of the emotional impact that AxSpA can have on people living with this long-term condition.

Following data collection and analysis, the team aims to implement new ways of delivering outpatient healthcare to people with AxSpA, which are more comprehensive (i.e. covering both physical and mental health), and more patient-focused.

The real impact of AxSpA on patients’ emotional well-being is often hidden from view during routine clinical consultations. This project offers an opportunity to deepen our understanding of factors influencing levels of positive mental health and generate fresh insights into the wider impact of AxSpA. It will be a privilege to work alongside patients and colleagues from different disciplines to bring this important area to the fore. – Dr Nicky Wilson, consultant physiotherapist at King’s College Hospital
The grant will extend the unfunded work that Nicky and I have carried out over the last three years with patients who live with AxSpA and raise the profile of integrated physical and mental health care for patients who live with long-term musculoskeletal conditions. – Dr Heidi Lempp, Department of inflammation Biology

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Heidi  Lempp

Heidi Lempp

Reader in Medical Sociology