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Br J Nurs. 2008 Jan 10-23;17(1):10-4.

Women's help-seeking behaviour at the onset of myocardial infarction.

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Critical Care, School of Care Sciences, University of Glamorgan.


Few studies have explored the factors affecting women's decisions to seek medical assistance at the onset of cardiac symptoms. Although some studies have shown that there are gender differences between men and women in terms of how they cope with having a myocardial infarction (MI) and heart disease, few have explored how women actually experience MI and what influences their help-seeking behaviour. Those studies that have, suggest that women often fail to recognize the signs of MI and delay seeking treatment for symptoms of MI longer than men do. This qualitative study explores the female experience of MI, focusing on some of the thought processes and coping strategies used by women when having an MI. Using a grounded theory research approach, 25 post-MI female patients were interviewed about their experiences during acute MI. Through analysing and coding data, a number of categories emerged that provide insight into the health seeking behaviour of women at the onset of MI. Emergent categories were: a delay in seeking help (main category); an engendered perception of heart disease (sub-category); not recognizing symptoms (sub-category); maintaining control through self-medication (sub-category). Analysis of the data suggests that when experiencing an MI, women delay seeking help for a number of reasons, including not recognizing symptoms, perceiving heart disease as a 'male' problem and preferring to self-medicate.

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