Adaptation to Physical Disabilities: The Role of Meaning in Life and Depression

Evangelia Psarra, George Kleftaras


Depression is one of the most frequent psychological symptoms in people with physical disabilities, as the acquisition of a physical disability is a stressful situation, demanding an individual’s adjustment to a new distressing reality. While some individuals manage to adapt to their physical disability’s implications, others fail to accept this new situation, manifesting depressive symptoms. One factor that seems to facilitate adaptation process to physical disabilities and thus prevent from depression prevalence is meaning of life. Viktor Frankl has emphasized the importance of experiencing meaning of life in the maintenance of physical and psychological health, especially in painful and distressing situations. The present study focused initially on the assessment of meaning in life and depressive symptomatology in individuals with physical disabilities. Moreover, the relationship of meaning in life and depression with adaptation to physical disability was examined. A sample of 522 participants with various types of physical disabilities completed three questionnaires on depressive symptomatology, meaning in life and adaptation to disability. Our assumptions regarding the negative relationship between meaning of life and depression were confirmed. Additionally, meaning of life was found, as expected, to play in important role in facilitating individuals’ adaptation to their physical disabilities, a finding indicating the great utility of Frankl’s existential theory as a psychotherapeutic tool for people with physical disabilities.


depression; meaning of life; adaptation to disability; physical disabilities