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Chronic Illn. 2013 Dec;9(4):268-82. doi: 10.1177/1742395313476720. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Health work by older people with chronic illness: how much time does it take?

Author information

  • 11Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, The Australian National University, Australia.



People living with chronic illness report spending a lot of time managing their health, attempting to balance the demands of their illness/es with other activities. This study was designed to measure the time older people with chronic illness spend on specific health-related activities. Key methods: Data were collected in 2010 using a national survey of people aged 50 years and over selected from the membership of National Seniors Australia, the Diabetes Services Scheme and The Lung Foundation. Respondents provided recall data on time used for personal health care, non-clinical health activity; and health service interactions.


While most people with a chronic illness spend on average less than 30 minutes a day on health-related activities, the highest decile of respondents averaged at least 2 hours each day. People with COPD report the highest expenditure of time. The greatest amount of time was spent on daily personal health care activities.


For a minority of people with chronic illness, time demands for health-related activities can be so great that other activities must be affected. Some time demands are amenable to system interventions that would result in a more patient-centered organisation of care.


Time; chronic illness; complexity; self-management; work

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