Surprising Health-Related Behaviors Revealed in New Study on Chronic Illness

People who live with a chronic illness may be able to influence their outcome through a number of strategies. Health-related behaviors, such as monitoring nutritional intake, exercise, and medication adherence, all contribute to the course of the illness. The internal beliefs one has about the illness and his or her own control over it, as well as their beliefs in the ability of others to control their illnesses, such as medical professionals, is all part of the health locus of control (HLC).

The HLC plays a significant role in chronic illness trajectory and motivation for healthy behaviors. HLC is further influenced by demographic factors. To examine the relationship between demographics and HLC, and also to get a better look at trends of health-related behavior in people with chronic illness, Konrad Janowski of the Department of psychology at the University of Finance and Management in Poland recently led a study exploring overall healthy behaviors in a sample of 300 adults with various chronic illnesses.

He found that in general, the level of acceptance and health-related habits did not differ between illnesses. Participants with a history of neurological illness had less confidence that others, such as medical staff, would be able to help their condition when compared to individuals with physical illnesses. Women demonstrated more healthy behaviors than men, and older people were more motivated to engage in healthy related habits than younger individuals. Although marriage has been shown to be a protective factor in other research, in this study Janowski found that widows were more likely to participate in healthy behaviors than younger people.

Another interesting finding was that the participants with the highest education engaged in the fewest health-related behaviors. Also, high acceptance of the illness was related to lower rates of healthy behavior in the entire sample. “This suggests that higher acceptance of the disease-related burden may be a factor decreasing motivation for preventive actions,” said Janowski.

Perhaps acceptance translates into some form of resignation for individuals living with a chronic illness. Other factors that could influence these results are psychological problems. Although the participants in this sample were excluded if they had a history of depression or anxiety, undiagnosed conditions could have existed in some of the participants. Janowski believes further research is needed to determine how these conditions affect HLC and motivation for health-related behaviors as psychological conditions are often comorbid with chronic illnesses.

Janowski, K., Kurpas, D., Kusz, J., Mroczek, B., Jedynak, T. (2013). Health-Related Behavior, Profile of Health Locus of Control and Acceptance of Illness in Patients Suffering from Chronic Somatic Diseases. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63920. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063920

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  • Angela


    May 25th, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    “Participants with a history of neurological illness had less confidence that others, such as medical staff, would be able to help their condition when compared to individuals with physical illnesses.”

    Is this not self injury? I mean we talk about how people are not helping others by having a negative view of neurological illnesses, about how they easily come to the aid of those with physical illnesses but not for those with mental illnesses, that those with the latter are often stigmatized and what not. Now if these very people lose hope then that is doing harm to yourself IMO!

  • aaron


    May 25th, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    So those who are normally viewed as the “smartest” or with higher education are the ones who are actually doing the least to help themselves when chronic illness strikes?
    These are supposed to be the cream of the crop. Just because you accept the illness doesn’t mean that you have to lay down and die just because you know the stats.
    This is a time when anyone who wants to live needs to fight, regardless of what you may see as the ultimate end. Don’t let all that education and “knowledge” get the best of you.

  • SEAN


    May 26th, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Some of this is surprising – like older people being more engaged in healthy habits, and more education translating into lower healthy behaviors.

    I’m guessing this is due to the small sample size. More than demographic related factors I think the psychological state of a person matters more when it come to healthy/unhealthy behaviors. Things like family, issues at work and other places, financial standing can all play a role in this. A more comprehensive look could give us a clearer picture.

  • Suzanne


    May 26th, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    The one hting that really made an impact on me when I read this was just how much control we have over our own bodies and our health. Being healthy is not all about living a healthy life but believing that we still have control over the things that happen to us even when we get sick. I have always heard that there is power to positive thinking and I really do believe that. Nothing can be accomplished from a medical standpoint if you are not a compliant patient snd do the things that the doctors ask you to do. This is so much more than just taking your meds, but actually taking charge of a situation and believing that you can make a difference by the things that you believe and that you will to happen along with your actions and your deeds.

  • cely


    May 27th, 2013 at 7:15 AM

    It amazes me when people just give up the fight. I know that if I am ever diagnosed with something that the doctors tell me can’t be won then that’s gonna make me fight even harder to show them that they are wrong. There is never a time to give up- that’s when you just resign yourself to rolling over and dying. But I am going to use everything that I have to win because I just don’t think that I was put here on this Earth to roll over and not make any kind of effort to control what happens to me.

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