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Illness representations according to age and effects on health behaviors following coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
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OBJECTIVES: To determine if illness representations differ as a function of age and how these representations, in conjunction with age, predict postoperative health behaviors.
DESIGN: Prospective study of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.
SETTING: A large metropolitan hospital providing regional cardiac care for patients in a tri-state area, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
PARTICIPANTS: All consenting patients (N = 309) from a consecutive series of patients scheduled for CABG surgery between January 1992 and January 1994. To be eligible for participation, patients could not be scheduled for any other coincidental surgery (e.g., valve replacement), and could not be in cardiac intensive care or experiencing angina at the time of the referral. Participants were predominantly male (70%) and married (80%), and averaged 62.8 years of age.
MEASUREMENTS: Postoperative self-reported health behaviors.
RESULTS: Older participants awaiting CABG surgery were significantly more likely to believe old age to be the cause of their coronary heart disease (CHD) and significantly less likely to believe genetics, health-damaging behaviors, health-protective behaviors, and emotions to be the cause of their CHD than were younger participants awaiting surgery. Furthermore, the older participants were significantly more likely to believe they had no control over the disease and that the disease would be gone after surgery, and reported fewer postoperative health behavior changes than did younger participants.
CONCLUSION: These findings demonstrate significant differences in illness representations as a function of age. Furthermore, differences in postoperative health behaviors were consistent with differing illness representations.