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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