Living well through chronic illness: the relevance of virtue theory to patients with chronic osteoarthritis

Arthritis Rheum. 2002 Oct 15;47(5):474-8. doi: 10.1002/art.10664.


Objective: Virtues and vices possessed by patients may affect their quality of life and how well they cope with disease. The objective of this study is to assess the relevance of the concept of virtue and vice to patients with chronic arthritis.

Methods: Aristotle's theory of virtue and vice was used to construct a guide for in-depth interviews, carried out with 5 patients with chronic osteoarthritis. Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and analyzed (using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) for information on personal qualities or intellectual approaches that participants thought necessary to thrive in the face of chronic disease.

Results: Five main themes emerged: strength, prudence, gratitude, self-worth, and insight into flourishing. The data on each of these is compared with Aristotle's definitions of virtues and vices.

Conclusions: Aristotle's virtue theory can be applied to the narratives of these patients with chronic osteoarthritis, and may help in understanding their coping strategies and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Ethical Theory*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / psychology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Virtues*