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Int Disabil Stud. 1989 Jul-Sep;11(3):114-20.

'Breathtaking': the consequences of chronic respiratory disorder.

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  • 1Department of Social Policy and Social Science (Medical Sociology Section), Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, Surrey, UK.


Chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD) is a major, though neglected, medical and social problem in the United Kingdom today. Dyspnoea is one of the most distressing and disabling symptoms of COAD, which is itself the largest single cause of absence from work in the United Kingdom. This paper reports on 92 patients suffering from COAD, who were interviewed in order to assess impairment, disability and handicap, and a smaller subsample of 24 of these patients who were followed-up using open-ended, semi-structured, tape-recorded interviews in order to cover in more detail some of the issues raised in the first quantitative stage of the study. Low correlations were found between lung function and disability (-0.38 p less than 0.001), accounting for only 14% of the variance, and high correlations between measures of dyspnoea and disability (-0.90 p less than 0.001). Major areas of disability and handicap included: household management, ambulation, sleep and rest, recreation and pastimes, and work. Financial problems and difficulties, housing problems and problems of social isolation were also frequently reported. The paper then attempts to explore the relationship between impairment, disability and handicap, drawing on both the quantitative and qualitative data collected in order to illustrate the variable nature of this relationship. The paper concludes by suggesting both the need for a more integrated approach to the care and rehabilitation of COAD patients and their families, and for a complementary social perspective and approach to COAD and its treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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