Concepts of illness causation and attitudes to health care among older people in the Republic of Ireland.
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MacFarlane, A., & Kelleher, C. (2002). Concepts of illness causation and attitudes to health care among older people in the Republic of Ireland. Social Science and Medicine, 54(9), 1389-1400.
Fifty-one older people (26 of them women) in the Republic of Ireland were interviewed using a semi-structured schedule on their health and illness experiences at three different time points in their lives; as children, as young adults and presently. Of particular interest were their views about the causes of heart disease, cancer and tuberculosis and their experiences of the prevailing health care system during their lifetime. Participants were recruited by letter from a database of respondents to a previous national quantitative survey of older people. Of 247 people originally contacted 127 (51%) responded by letter and 51 of these took part in the interview study. Data were analysed according to principles of content analysis using NUD.IST software. Reported ideas about causes of illnesses were multicausal. These were categorised as behavioural, biological, psychosocial or other explanations. While respondents placed most emphasis on behavioural explanations, this was accompanied by more complex views and critical questioning of formal health education messages. There was a strong allegiance to current biomedical concepts and practices. This appeared to be explained in part by reported negative experiences of health care treatments during childhood, particularly in hospitals, now perceived to be much improved. Advances in biomedicine were discussed with accounts of benefits received or observed by participants. An analysis of the history of health services in Ireland suggests that some of the attitudes reported reflect the experiences of the respondents as a generation rather than as older people per se and hence highlights the impact of public policy on people's experiences of and attitudes toward health and health care systems.