Psychological reactions to the onset of chronic illness

Mary T. Westbrook*, Linda L. Viney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


Patients (N = 126) interviewed during hospitalization at the onset of chronic illness were found to be experiencing considerable emotional arousal. Their psychological reactions were assessed by applying content analysis scales to accounts of their current experiences and comparing these with the accounts of non-patients. Multivariate analysis of variance indicated that patients experienced significantly more anxiety, depression, and directly and indirectly expressed anger, as well as positive feelings and that they perceived themselves to be more helpless. Canonical analyses were applied to investigate the relationships between patients' reactions and their biographic and illness-related characteristics. Patients' reactions were related to demographic factors and their perceptions of their handicaps. No relationships were found between patterns of reaction and patients' life styles, medical records of their illnesses or the types of their disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-905
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes


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