Illness Perceptions, Adjustment to Illness, and Depression in a Palliative Care Population

Annabel Price, Laura Goodwin, Lauren Rayner, Emma Shaw, Penny Hansford, Nigel Sykes, Barbara Monroe, Irene Higginson, Matthew Hotopf, William Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Representations of illness have been studied in several populations, but research is limited in palliative care.

To describe illness representations in a population with advanced disease receiving palliative care and to examine the relationship between illness perceptions, adaptive coping, and depression.

A cross-sectional survey of 301 consecutive eligible patients recruited from a palliative care service in south London, U.K. Measures used included the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (Brief IPQ), the Mental Adjustment to Cancer (MAC) Scale, and the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders Patient Health Questionnaire-9.

Scores were not normally distributed for most questions on the Brief IPQ. The correlations found between items on the Brief IPQ were understandable in the context of advanced disease. MAC helplessness-hopelessness and fighting spirit were highly correlated with items on the Brief IPQ in opposite directions. The Brief IPQ domains of consequences, identity, concern, personal control, and emotion were associated with depression, a relationship that was not explained by adaptive coping. Seven causal attribution themes were identified: don’t know, personal responsibility, exposure, pathological process, intrinsic personal factors, chance, fate or luck, and other. Both lung cancer diagnosis and gender were found to be independently associated with personal responsibility attribution. None of the attribution themes were associated with the presence of depression.

Assessment of illness perceptions in palliative care is likely to yield important information about risk of depression and will help clinicians to personalize management of advanced disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-832
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


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