The other side of the coin: perceived positive effects of illness in women following acute myocardial infarction

Tone M Norekvål, Philip Moons, Berit R Hanestad, Jan E Nordrehaug, Tore Wentzel-Larsen, Bengt Fridlund
European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2008, 7 (1): 80-7

BACKGROUND: Although myocardial infarction (MI) is linked with both physical and psychological impairments, the possibility of patients also experiencing positive outcomes of MI has received far less attention in research and in clinical practice. In particular, this aspect has been under-investigated in older persons and in women.

AIM: The purpose of this study was to investigate possible positive effects of illness, describe the patient characteristics and explore the nature and frequency of these effects in older women after MI.

METHODS: A cross-sectional postal survey was conducted in 145 women aged 62-80 years, three months to five years after MI. Self-reported socio-demographic and clinical data, in addition to data from medical records, were collected. A single-item question--"All in all, was there anything positive about experiencing an MI?"--was used to assess positive effects of illness, in addition to an open-ended question on the nature of possible positive effects.

RESULTS: A majority of the women (65%) reported positive effects from their MI experience. The women perceiving positive effects did not differ from those who did not on socio-demographic and clinical variables, except for being older (p=0.007) and less often readmitted (p=0.029). The groups did not differ significantly as to disease severity and time since MI. Four themes emerged from the open-ended questioning on the nature of perceived positive effects of the illness: Appreciating Life (55%), Getting Health Care (42%), Making Lifestyle Changes (36%), and Taking More Care of Self and Others (29%).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings contribute to a more complete picture of psychosocial issues in women after MI by providing evidence that positive effects are often experienced despite physical limitations. Nurses may use this knowledge as a tool in patient education and communication, although further research is needed to determine the most optimal interventions for MI patients.

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