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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The over time development of chronic illness self-management patterns: a longitudinal qualitative study

Åsa Audulv

Author Affiliations

Department of Health Sciences, Mid Sweden University, SE-851 70, Sundsvall, Sweden

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:452  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-452

Published: 7 May 2013

Abstract

Background

There currently exists a vast amount of literature concerning chronic illness self-management, however the developmental patterns and sustainability of self-management over time remain largely unknown. This paper aims to describe the patterns by which different chronic illness self-management behaviors develop and are maintained over time.

Method

Twenty-one individuals newly diagnosed with chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes, rheumatism, ischemic heart disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic renal disease, inflammatory bowel disease) were repeatedly interviewed over two-and-a-half years. The interviews were conducted in Sweden from 2006 to 2008. A total of 81 narrative interviews were analyzed with an interpretive description approach.

Results

The participants’ self-management behaviors could be described in four different developmental patterns: consistent, episodic, on demand, and transitional. The developmental patterns were related to specific self-management behaviors. Most participants took long-term medications in a consistent pattern, whereas exercise was often performed according to an episodic pattern. Participants managed health crises (e.g., angina, pain episodes) according to an on demand pattern and everyday changes due to illness (e.g., adaptation of work and household activities) according to a transitional pattern. All of the participants used more than one self-management pattern.

Conclusion

The findings show that self-management does not develop as one uniform pattern. Instead different self-management behaviors are enacted in different patterns. Therefore, it is likely that self-management activities require support strategies tailored to each behavior’s developmental pattern.

Keywords:
Adaptation; Behavior change; Chronic disease; Development; Longitudinal; Qualitative; Self-care; Sweden