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Soc Sci Med. 1997 Dec;45(11):1729-39.

"I just cope from day to day": unpredictability and anxiety in the lives of women.

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McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Data are presented from in-depth interviews with 35 women in an industrial town in South Wales, U.K., many of whom were from low income households. The research aimed to explore women's own concerns about their health and the ways in which health problems affected their lives. This paper focuses on one prominent theme in these interviews: unpredictability. In particular, women described how their lives had become less predictable and amenable to control as a result of health problems--epilepsy, asthma, ME, anxiety, nerves and panic attacks, for example. Women's accounts are used to show how they experienced these problems, how they influenced women's self-identity and the ways in which women struggled to cope with the dreadful uncertainty that characterized their days. They often hid these problems, and the privacy of this aspect of their lives is striking. The data are set within the context of class and gender relations which diminish women's control over their lives and erode their self-esteem and sense of autonomy. Class and gender combine with ill health to create the conditions for women's sense of unpredictability and powerlessness. They can aggravate and provoke the health problems women described: women spoke of the challenges they faced in their roles as wives and mothers, the problems associated with widowhood, the loss of their jobs, the impact of unemployment and their efforts to cope with severe financial problems. In part, these provided them with a framework for understanding the uncertainty, anxiety, nerves and panic they experienced.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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