Problem solving in diabetes self-management: a model of chronic illness self-management behavior

Ann Behav Med. 2003 Summer;25(3):182-93. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2503_04.


Management of chronic illnesses is a significant public health concern that is made more challenging by problems of regimen adherence. Effective self-management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes requires not only technical skill to perform regimen behaviors but also problem-solving skills to manage daily barriers to regimen adherence and to make appropriate adjustments to the self-care regimen. A review of the empirical literature on the relation between problem solving and disease self-management in diabetes, a chronic illness exemplar, illuminates methodological limitations that indicate a need for a theoretical framework for problem solving applied to chronic disease self-management. A problem-solving model of chronic disease self-management is proposed, derived from theories of problem solving in cognitive psychology, educational/learning theory, and social problem solving. Four essential components of problem solving in disease self-management are identified: (a). problem-solving skill, (b). problem-solving orientation, (c). disease-specific knowledge, and (d). transfer of past experience. The model is illustrated, and empirical support for this problem-solving model in the diabetes literature is discussed. The model has utility in driving testable hypotheses regarding the relation of disease-specific problem solving to chronic illness management, in developing problem-solving assessment instruments relevant to disease self-management, and in guiding disease self-management training and interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Problem Solving*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Self Care*
  • Sick Role*