Meaning of illness for women with coronary heart disease

Anne G. Rosenfeld, Jeannine Gilkeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to describe the meaning of an acute cardiac event and cardiac illness for women with coronary heart disease. DESIGN: A longitudinal, descriptive design was used. SETTING: The study was undertaken at a tertiary care hospital in the Pacific Northwest. PATIENTS: The study considered a purposive sample of 6 women ranging in age from 47 to 67 years, who were hospitalized for coronary heart disease (3 for coronary bypass surgery and 3 for coronary angioplasty). METHODS: We completed a series of 2 focused semistructured interviews, 1 while women were hospitalized for coronary heart disease and the second 3 months later. The qualitative method-of grounded theory guided the collection and analysis of data. RESULTS: The meaning of illness, for women with coronary heart disease evolved over time in a process we termed seeking understanding. After the onset of symptoms, women described 3 responses: denial, acknowledging, and being scared. These did not occur in sequence, but as iterative processes. They described 4 additional themes after obtaining medical attention: naming, seriousness of illness, comparing self with others, and causality. CONCLUSIONS: A substantive theory of seeking understanding was described in this study and contributes to our understanding of meaning and behavior of women with coronary heart disease. Future research with use of similar methods may lead to an understanding of women's decision-making process regarding their illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalHeart and Lung: Journal of Acute and Critical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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