Health within Illness among Persons living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

B. Leonard, M. Clark


The purpose of this descriptive qualitative study is to explore perceptions of health within illness, a health strategy used by persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to maintain their quality of life. A convenience sample of 11 community-dwelling, English-speaking adults with COPD was recruited from the Southwestern United States. The study was conducted in the homes of the participants. Naturalistic inquiry using content analysis and constant comparative techniques was used to analyze the transcribed data. Five conceptual categories emerged in the final stage of analysis that provided answers to the research questions from the perspectives of the participants. The categories were: (a) Cut Off from Life, (b) Health is Everything, (c) Making the Best of It, (d) Living with It, and (e) Breaking the Cycle. Each of the categories was inducted from emergent themes and clusters of data that represented the participants’ descriptions of living with COPD. The findings of this study highlight strategies and practices portrayed by the participants to promote their health despite suffering from a serious illness. Data from the study participants suggest the management of COPD is a complex process that requires considerable flexibility, creativity, and resilience to achieve a sense of health within illness. The study highlights important ways to improve self-care among COPD sufferers on how to manage this chronic illness beyond a trial and error process.


sick role; Naturlistic; qualitative; COPD; Health within Illness

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