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Forms, interactions, and responses to social support: A qualitative study of support and adherence to photoprotection amongst patients with Xeroderma Pigmentosum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-106
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Volume25
Issue number1
DOIs
Accepted/In press23 Oct 2019
Published1 Feb 2020

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Abstract

Objectives: Social support influences adherence to treatment in chronic illness, but there is uncertainty about its facilitators and constraints. This study explored the forms, processes, and responses associated with mobilization of informal support across three life contexts amongst patients with Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), a condition requiring rigorous photoprotection to reduce cancer risks. Design: Qualitative interview study. Methods: A total of 25 adults with XP participated in semi-structured interviews conducted face to face. An inductive thematic analysis was applied using a framework approach. Results: Practical support, involving both assistance with recommended photoprotection and adjusting daily activities to reduce exposure, was the key form of support provided by family and friends. However, responses to this support differed with two groups identified based on the relative priority given to photoprotection in daily life and processes of disclosure. For ‘positive responders’, support aligned with their own priorities to photoprotect, conveyed feelings of being cared-for and was facilitated by talking openly. In contrast, for ‘negative responders’ support conflicted with their priority of living ‘normally’ and their limited disclosure hindered receipt of helpful support in personal, clinic, and work interactions. Fears of workplace stigma also reduced disclosure amongst participants open in other contexts. Conclusions: Practical support conveyed psychosocial support with positive effects on adherence. This suggests the traditional separation into practical and emotional support is overly simplistic, with measures potentially missing important aspects. Interactional processes contribute to the effects of support, which can be addressed by targeting disclosure, stigma, and other barriers at individual and organizational levels. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Social support can be both a facilitator and a hindrance to treatment adherence. Practical support is identified as the most important form of support in the context of adherence. The processes of support underpinning its relationship to adherence are unclear. What does this study add? Variations in the provision and impacts of support are influenced by participants’ disclosure and attitudes to photoprotection, with two key groups comprising ‘positive responders’ and ‘negative responders’. The influence of emotional support on adherence may be underestimated through neglect of the ways in which practical support often conveys feelings of being valued and cared-for. Barriers to mobilizing effective adherence support extends across life spheres, with fears of stigma and discrimination in work settings highlighting the need to intervene at individual and organizational levels.

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