So, How’s Your SWL?

How’s your SWL?

There is a body of spinal cord injury research that isn’t about cure or therapy. It’s about measuring the disability itself. How many, how did it happen, who did it happen to. That’s important data to have, of course, to understand SCI as a public health issue that has a huge consequence — for those who are injured, or course, but for society too.

I look at a lot of the data and read the medical literature on SCI. I am particularly on the lookout for new therapies and treatments that we all hope will emerge from biomedical research. There’s other data too. Today I came across a new paper published in a journal: “What determines low satisfaction with life in individuals with spinal cord injury?”

SWL, that’s short for satisfaction with life. How’s yours?

The study, by a well-known group from Northwestern University and the Veterans Affairs department, looked at about 900 vets with SCI, average age 62, almost all male, Caucasian and paraplegic. The ones with lower SWL had pain or other medical issues, and reported greater grief/loss due to SCI. The ones that had higher SWL had greater emotional supports and self-reported independence.

What the authors conclude:

“Pain and feelings of grief/loss due to injury were associated with low SWL. Self-perceived independence and good social support were associated with better SWL. Along with addressing pain and facilitating independence and social support, these findings suggest that interventions to improve SWL should focus on helping individuals deal with grief/loss due to injury.”

Here are some ideas to improve SWL: Give people access to the best medical care. Don’t let people become isolated. Treat people’s pain. Figure out how people can have a home to live in and the care resources they need. And address depression if it’s part of the mix (and it is in about 25 percent of SCI).

But there’s more to life and to spinal cord injury than medical care. There’s a huge psychosocial part of paralysis. You have to live in a world designed for nondisabled people who may think of you as damaged goods.

To truly boost the collective SWL of the paralysis community, how about giving people the supports to live in their community, to got to school or work if they want to, to participate fully in the community by having transportation and access to public places. It certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone’s SWL to have some money to spare, but let’s start by eliminating stigma and social barriers.