Risk Factors for Psychological Distress and Impaired Quality of Life In Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Implications for Providing Effective Nursing Care

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Objective: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a multidimensional endocrine disorder characterized by at least two of the following three features: hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction and/or polycystic ovaries. Prevalence is estimated at 5-10 % of women of reproductive age worldwide and may impact between five and ten million women in the U.S. alone. Rather than a distinct disease entity, PCOS is characterized as a clustering of clinical concerns which include hyperandrogenism, obesity, and menstrual abnormalities/infertility. Our intent was to examine how these three PCOS characteristics impact psychological symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity) and PCOS health related quality of life concerns (weight, hair, infertility, menstrual, emotions).

Design: Cross-sectional, correlational

Setting: Women were recruited from private endocrinology practices in the rural Southeastern U.S.

Patients/Participants: The study sample consisted of 126 women with PCOS. Half of these women were currently attempting to conceive in addition to being treated for their PCOS. The average woman in the study was 30 years of age (M=30.3, range=18-48), White (98 %) and married (79%). On average, participants weighed over 200 pounds (M=213.6 lbs, 116-361 lbs).

Methods: During the seven-month enrollment period, women diagnosed with PCOS were invited to participate. Convenience sampling yielded 126 subjects who met the diagnosis for PCOS, underwent laboratory testing and physical assessment, completed psychological and quality of life survey instruments and were included in data analysis.

Results: Results of multiple regression analyses, controlling for demographic covariates, were completed on markers of hyperandrogenism, obesity and current fertility intent. Findings revealed hirsutism was significantly related to increased symptoms of anxiety and somatization and decreased quality of life among women with PCOS, while elevated androgen levels were significantly related to decreased quality of life. Insulin level predicted increased levels of symptoms related to somatization, psychoticism, and a global symptom severity index. Current fertility intent significantly impacted symptoms related to interpersonal sensitivity, anxiety, psychoticism, and the global symptom severity index. Specifically, women not currently trying to have a baby had higher levels of these psychological symptom outcomes.

Conclusion/Implications for nursing practice: Women with PCOS are at elevated risk for psychological distress, and psychological symptoms appear to increase with increasing severity of PCOS symptoms. Women not currently trying to conceive appear to be at higher risk for psychological distress and lower quality of life. Future attention might focus on screening and possible referring to mental health services for women not trying or no longer trying to conceive.


Denver, CO

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