The experience of osteoarthritis in older adults

Alwan, Claire (2000). The experience of osteoarthritis in older adults. PhD thesis The Open University.




This study aims to explore the experience of osteoarthritis (OA) in older adults, drawing on concepts from the literature on chronic illness including social-cognition models (e.g. Self-Regulatory Model) and cognitive concepts (e.g. self-schema).

Design and Participants:

A qualitative research design and Phenomenological Interpretative Analysis Methodology were used. Sixteen participants were interviewed. Ten were recruited from an orthopaedic surgical waiting list source and six from a GP source: age ranged from 67 to 79 years, and history of osteoarthritis ranged from one to 35 years.


A semi-structured interview schedule was designed and piloted, based on the research literature.


Analysis identified the following themes: Demands of OA (pain, impact on activity, and impact on mood); Perceptions ofOA (onset/deterioration, cause, label, seriousness, prognosis); Strategies to manage OA (use of health services, changes in behaviour, psychological strategies, appraisal of strategies); Perception of Self (compared to past/future/others) and Contextual factors (age, co-morbidity, waiting list). Links between themes were reciprocal, and a tentative model ofOA is presented.


A comprehensive model of the experience of chronic illness could provide a framework to guide interventions for direct clinical interventions (e.g. adjustment to chronic illness, pain management, identification of psychological comorbidity) and indirect interventions (e.g. consultancy with other health professionals).

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