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J Aging Health. 1996 Feb;8(1):3-26.

Lay explanations of chronic illness in later life.

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  • 1University of Manitoba.


This study explores lay explanations of chronic illness in later life. More specifically, perceived causes, treatment strategies, and perceived outcomes of arthritis and heart/circulatory problems from the perspective of older adults who have such problems are examined. Variations in these explanations according to selected sociodemographic and health status characteristics are explored. Among the arthritis sufferers, the most prevalent explanations were physical work/working conditions, age, and injury, whereas those with heart/circulatory problems most often explained the cause as due to tension/stress, physiology, or heredity. A variety of treatments were identified, including doing nothing, seeking or continuing medical treatment, altering lifestyle, and using folk remedies. Selected sociodemographic and health status characteristics appear important for understanding explanations about arthritis, although it is primarily health status indicators that emerge for heart/circulatory problems. Directions for future research are highlighted.

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