Formal and informal healthcare behaviours of women with chronic illness: A cross-sectional analysis of 1925 women

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Clinical Practice, 2019, 73 (4)
Issue Date:
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© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Aim: To describe the healthcare behaviours of Australian women (45 years and over) diagnosed with a chronic illness. Methods: This is a cross-sectional sub-study of the 45 and Up Study—the largest study of healthy ageing conducted in the Southern Hemisphere—including 1,932 Australian women (45 years and older) with a self-reported diagnosis of either depression, asthma, diabetes, osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. Questionnaires were posted to eligible participants between September and December 2016 and included self-reported use of formal and informal health services and healthcare behaviours, and health practitioner recommendations and monitoring of informal care. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the sample characteristics and chi-square tests assessed associations between variables. Results: The average age of participants was 69. We found that 53.7% of the women used informal healthcare products or practices for their chronic illness (eg exercise, nutritional supplements). These women were significantly (P < 0.001) more likely to consult with all types of health practitioners, compared with women not using informal healthcare. Physical activity and nutritional supplements were the most commonly recommended product or practice by all healthcare practitioners. However, informal healthcare behaviours were not regularly recommended or monitored by health practitioners. Conclusions: Women use a range of informal products and practices to manage chronic illness, but many fail to communicate with their health practitioners about such use. Future research should consider how to encourage better communication between health practitioners and patients related to informal healthcare for chronic illness to help ensure safe, effective, coordinated patient management.
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