Published Papers - Abstract 772

Harris ML, Byles JE, Sibbritt DW & Loxton D. “Just get on with it”: qualitative insights of coming to terms with a deteriorating body for women with osteoarthritis. PLOS One, 2015; 10(3): e0120507

Objective: To qualify the psychosocial burden of osteoarthritis for older women and identify factors perceived to assist with psychological adjustment to the disease.Methods: Women who indicated being diagnosed/treated for osteoarthritis in the previous three years in the fifth survey of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health provided the sampling frame. Participants were randomly sampled until saturation was reached using a systematic process. Thematic content analysis was applied to the 19 semi-structured telephone interviews using a realist framework.Results: The findings indicate that the emotional burden of osteoarthritis is considerable, and the process of psychological adjustment complex. Older women with osteoarthritis have psychological difficulties associated with increasing pain and functional impairment. Psychological adjustment over time was attributed primarily to cognitive and attitudinal factors (e.g. stoicism, making downward comparisons and possessing specific notions about the cause of arthritis). This was a dynamic 'day to day' process involving a constant struggle between grieving physical losses and increasing dependence amidst symptom management.Conclusion: The findings of this study add to the current understanding of the complex processes involved in psychological adjustment over time. Targeted interventions focused on assisting women with arthritis redefine self-concepts outside the confines of caring responsibilities, coupled with public health education programs around understanding the destructive nature of arthritis are required. Understanding the destructive and (potentially) preventable nature of arthritis may facilitate early detection and increased uptake of appropriate treatment options for osteoarthritis that have the ability to modify disease trajectories.

Open Access Article