Body image, self-esteem, and depression in burn-injured adolescents and young adults

Deborah Ann Orr, Fordham University


Burns are the third leading cause of death in childhood and adolescence. For those surviving burn injury, scarring and loss of function can be devastating, in terms of body image and self-esteem, with accompanying depression. Using a wide range of measures and age samples, earlier research explored the impact of demographic, burn-related (age at time of burn, years elapsed since burn, locus, percent total body surface area burned (%TBSA)) and social support variables upon psychological adjustment after injury. Results conflicted, but evidence suggested that social support from the family might be the variable most associated with post-burn self-esteem, body image and depression. The present study was conducted to clarify the relationships between these variables within a well-defined sample of burn-injured adolescents and young adults. Subjects were 121 patients (46 females, 75 males) burned within the past ten years, and currently 14 to 27 years of age. Subjects completed the following instruments: Semantic Differential measure for Body Image, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Perceived Social Support (PSS) Inventories (Friends, Family). Mean age of subjects was 17.8 years; mean %TBSA burned was 27.3, with 75% of subjects having burns to a visible or socially sensitive area. Subjects and non-responders were comparable on burn-related and demographic variables found in their medical records. Correlational analyses showed the striking, consistent relationship between PSS (PSS from friends $>$ Family) and each of the dependent variables. Subjects perceiving more social support, particularly from friends, tended to have more positive body images (p $<$.01), greater self-esteem (p $<$.01), and less depression (p $<$.01). Subjects with higher self-esteem had more positive body images and less depression. Stepwise multiple regression analyses demonstrated the significant contribution of sex, with females reporting more negative body images, lower self-esteem, and greater depression than males with equivalent burns and PSS. There were no significant relationships between other demographic or burn-related variables and psychological adjustment. Results suggest that the buffering influence of PSS against the negative impact of burn injuries could be used in treatment planning during and after hospitalization to improve psychological adjustment in burn-injured adolescents and young adults.

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Recommended Citation

Orr, Deborah Ann, "Body image, self-esteem, and depression in burn-injured adolescents and young adults" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8818472.