The Relevance of Chronic Illness in the Everyday Lives of Elderly Women

Linda Liska Belgrave

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Much past research on the experience of chronic illness and disability is based on the theoretical assumption of illness as a stigmatizing deviance. Among the elderly, however, for whom chronic illness is almost anticipated, there is likely to be less potential for stigma, so that other aspects of physical problems may be more important to an understanding of the illness experience. In-depth interviews were conducted with 29 elderly women suffering from diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, and/or some other chronic health problem. The following research questions were addressed: (a) What is the experience of chronic illness in the everyday lives of noninstitutionalized elderly women? (b) In what ways is stigmatization part of this experience? (c) How is the chronic illness experience related to self-concept? (d) How is this relationship affected by the experience of specific ailments? Inductive data analysis revealed that although the concept of stigma was of limited value in describing the illness experience, more mundane effects of physical problems on daily tasks and lifestyles as a whole were common. For some, specific symptoms led to significant changes, whereas for others illness-related limitations on time and energy were key factors in these effects. Importantly, alterations of self-concept were not experienced universally. For some, illness was not incorporated into self-concept, despite severe physical limitations. Both illness-specific and global aspects of the illness experience emerged during the research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-500
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Aging and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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