Measuring Happiness in Psoriasis Patients
No matter where in the world you live, if you have psoriasis, you probably smile less. For those of us who have itchy plaques, this sounds like a no-brainer. After all, it’s more challenging to be happy when you are stressed or feeling isolated with psoriasis. However, the actual “happiness gap” is surprising, and in some cases, shocking. But with understanding from healthcare professionals and connecting with other psoriasis patients, we could begin to fill our happiness tanks significantly.
Study Aims to Improve Happiness Gap
The World Psoriasis Happiness Report 2017, a global report from Leo Innovation Labs and the Happiness Research Institute, explores the impact of psoriasis on patients’ happiness. Receiving input from 121,800 people with psoriasis across 184 countries, the report aims to highlight the impacts of well being – happiness – for people with psoriasis and validate the emotional toll of the disease. It takes into account stress, social support, and loneliness. Study participants answered survey questions via the PsoHappy app.
According to the executive summary, during the past decade, there has been a shift in understanding that the ultimate goal of public policies should be to improve people’s quality of life and that subjective well-being measures – like data from this study – are valid, reliable, and should be used to help make better policies and inform citizens.
Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, recently shared the results of this study with the psoriasis community in a webinar. He explained that the “happiness gap” measures the difference in happiness between the general population of a country and those with psoriasis in the same country. It some cases, the gap is very wide.
He said, “What we measure matters. How people feel matters. People are the experts of who walks in their shoes.” And, as the study shows, results matter.
Psoriasis has an impact on happiness.
In some countries, people living with severe psoriasis report 30% lower levels of happiness than other citizens in the same country. Wiking said, “‘It is surprising to see that Norway and Denmark, which have recently been named as the world’s happiest countries in the two most recent annual UN World Happiness Reports, had the biggest happiness gaps among those living with psoriasis, compared to other countries in our research.” He went on to say, “There were similar, large gaps in other countries that have consistently scored high on the UN’s global happiness index, so it could indicate that the negative impact of chronic health conditions may be flying under the policy radar of otherwise healthy and happy societies and leaving people behind.”
Stress is the strongest psychological predictor of unhappiness for people living with psoriasis.
For those who participated in the study, stress affected people with psoriasis across all demographics and socioeconomic statuses. Stress did not discriminate based on the severity of the disease, either. 60% of psoriasis patients reported feeling distressed in a moderate or extreme amount in their daily lives, and in the United States, psoriasis patients experience 40% more stress than the average citizen. However, the study finds that 35% of people with psoriasis can be “lifted out of misery” by reducing extreme stress.
Loneliness is widespread among people living with psoriasis.
33% of people with psoriasis reported feeling lonely, but the levels of loneliness vary quite a bit between countries. In the United Kingdom, it is 48%, but in Portugal, it is 21%. Also, similar to reducing stress, about 13% can be “lifted out of misery” by reducing extreme loneliness.
Happiness gaps may be reduced by increasing the understanding of how psoriasis impacts well-being.
48% of patients with psoriasis feel that their healthcare professionals do not fully understand the impact of psoriasis on mental well-being. Increasing this understanding of well-being significantly lowers the happiness gap.
Women with psoriasis more likely to be unhappy than men.
Psoriasis affects both men and women significantly, but overall, the impact on women is greater, especially when taking into consideration the severity of the disease. According to the report, “In addition, women consistently reported higher levels of stress and loneliness than men.”
Different psoriasis symptoms have different impacts on happiness.
For example, “scaling” lowered happiness by 11.7%, but having “trouble walking,” decreased happiness by 22%. Other results include:
Where psoriasis is located on the body impacts happiness differently.
Scalp psoriasis lowered happiness 7.5%, but psoriasis of the genitals equated to a 12.9% happiness gap. The reports cited that this may be because “psoriasis on intimate areas of the body may create physical or psychological challenges impacting people’s love lives.”
Wiking said the data from the World Happiness Report 2017 shows that the “negative impact of chronic health conditions may be flying under the policy radar of otherwise healthy and happy societies and leaving people behind.” Spreading awareness and understanding will help policymakers increase the happiness of psoriasis patients.
To participate in the ongoing study, download the PsoHappy app and begin the survey. New survey questions are released periodically to help researchers gain a better understanding of how psoriasis affects well being. Miking said the next area of study could include comorbidities associated with psoriasis.