Timing of onset and self-management of multiple chronic conditions: A qualitative examination taking a lifespan perspective

Allison R. Heid, Andrew R. Gerber, David S. Kim, Stefan Gillen, Seran Schug, Rachel Pruchno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: Over two-thirds of older individuals live with multiple chronic conditions, yet chronic diseases are often studied in silos. Taking a lifespan approach to understanding the development of multiple chronic conditions in the older population helps to further elucidate opportunities for targeted interventions that address the complexities of multiple chronic conditions. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 38 older adults (age 64+) diagnosed with at least two chronic health conditions. Content analysis was used to build understanding of how older adults discuss the timing of diagnoses and subsequent self-management of multiple chronic conditions. Results: Findings highlight the complex process by which illnesses unfold in the context of individuals’ lives and the subsequent engagement and/or disengagement in self-management behaviors. Two primary themes were evident regarding timing of illnesses: illnesses were experienced within the context of social life events and/or health events, and illnesses were not predominantly seen as connected to one another by patients. Self-management behaviors were described in response to onset of each illness. Discussion: Findings provide insight into how older adults understand their experience of multiple chronic conditions and change in self-management behaviors over time. In order for practitioners to ignite behavioral changes, a person’s history and life experiences must be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-189
Number of pages17
JournalChronic Illness
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy


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