Congestive heart failure patients' perceptions of quality of life: the integration of physical and psychosocial factors

Aging Ment Health. 2004 Jan;8(1):83-91. doi: 10.1080/13607860310001613374.


Congestive heart failure (CHF) lowers survival and worsens the quality of life (QOL) of over four million older Americans. Both clinicians and standardized instruments used to assess the QOL of patients with CHF focus primarily on physical symptoms rather than capturing the full range of psychosocial concerns. The purpose of this study was to gather descriptions of the components of QOL as understood by patients living with CHF. Focus groups were conducted with patients with known CHF, New York Heart Association (NYHA) class I-IV, and left ventricular fraction of <40%. Focus groups were audiotaped, transcribed, and reviewed for common and recurrent themes using the methods of constant comparisons. We conducted three focus groups (n = 15) stratified by NYHA stage with male patients ranging in age from 47-82 years of age. Five patients were classified with NYHA stage III/IV and ten with NYHA stage I/II. Thirty attributes of QOL were identified which fell into five broad domains: symptoms, role loss, affective response, coping, and social support. Expectedly, patients reported the importance of physical symptoms; however, participants also identified concern for family, the uncertainty of prognosis, and cognitive function as dimensions of QOL. Changes in patients' lives attributed to CHF were not always considered deficiencies; rather, methods of coping with CHF were identified as important attributes representing possible opportunities for personal growth. Clinicians must understand the full range of concerns affecting the QOL of their older patients with CHF. The findings suggest that psychosocial aspects and patient uncertainty about their prognosis are important components of QOL among CHF patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Focus Groups
  • Gender Identity
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Heart Failure / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Support
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / psychology*