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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000 Nov; 54(11): 859–863.
PMCID: PMC1731587

How accurately do adult sons and daughters report and perceive parental deaths from coronary disease ?


OBJECTIVES—To describe how adult sons and daughters report and perceive parental deaths from heart disease
DESIGN—Two generation family study.
SETTING—West of Scotland.
SUBJECTS—1040 sons and 1298 daughters aged 30-59 from 1477 families, whose fathers and mothers were aged 45-64 in 1972-76 and have been followed up for mortality over 20 years.
OUTCOME—Perception of a "family weakness" attributable to heart disease.
RESULTS—26% of sons and daughters had a parent who had died of coronary heart disease (CHD). The proportion was higher in older offspring (+18% per 10 year age difference) and in manual compared with non-manual groups (+37%). Eighty nine per cent of parental deaths from CHD were correctly reported by offspring. Only 23% of sons and 34% of daughters with at least one parent who had died of CHD considered that they had a family weakness attributable to heart disease. Perceptions of a family weakness were higher when one or both parents had died of CHD, when parental deaths occurred at a younger age, in daughters compared with sons and in offspring in non-manual compared with manual occupations.
CONCLUSIONS—Only a minority of sons and daughters with experience of a parent having died from CHD perceive this in terms of a family weakness attributable to heart disease. Although men in manual occupations are most likely to develop CHD, they are least likely to interpret a parental death from CHD in terms of a family weakness. Health professionals giving advice to patients on their familial risks need to be aware of the difference between clinical definitions and lay perceptions of a family history of heart disease.

Keywords: coronary heart disease; family history; social class

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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