Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Ike Solomon Okosun, MS, MPH, PhD, FTOS, FACE

Second Advisor

Charmayne M. Dunlop-Thomas, MS, MPH


Introduction: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a disabling, chronic, multisystem autoimmune disease that occurs in women of childbearing years (15-40) and spans a lifetime. Little is known about the relevance that social support has in the context of mental health wellbeing for patients with SLE. Physicians may be an adequate source of support when it comes to SLE. Since there are arrays of triggers for depression, there is a need to understand the SLE experience to help with disease management.

Objective: To examine the association of social support from a physician and the mental health wellbeing of SLE patients.

Methods: We examined 652 SLE patients from the Georgians Organized Against Lupus (GOAL) cohort. Descriptive analysis was performed. Univariate analysis was performed to examine the associations of the main dependent variables (Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) and Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)) and each independent variable. Both, univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine associations between selected characteristics and main independent variables (emotional or social support and social support from a physician) with the categorized mental component score and PHQ9 depression score, individually and together. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals were used to determine statistical significance.

Results: SLE patients who perceived having enough emotional/social support were found to have an overall better mental health status than the average American, and 64% less likely to be depressed compared to patients who did not have enough emotional/social support. Patients who were categorized as having social support from a physician were found to be in poorer mental health statuses, as measured by the MCS SF-12 and PHQ9 depression score.

Conclusion: The findings of this study show that emotional or social support is associated with a better mental health well-being for SLE patients. SLE patients who have enough emotional or social support were found to have above normal general mental health and less depression. This study did not show any direct associations between physician social support and mental health wellbeing.