Women's delay in seeking treatment with myocardial infarction: a meta-synthesis

J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2004 Jul-Aug;19(4):251-68. doi: 10.1097/00005082-200407000-00005.


Women, especially those older than 65 years, delay longer than do men before seeking medical treatment for symptoms of an acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The majority of delay time results from the patient's lengthy decision-making processes after symptoms begin and before seeking medical treatment. Effective treatment is time dependent as mortality and morbidity rise with each hour of delay. Therefore, the purpose of this research was 2-fold: (1) to synthesize reported research findings concerning women's reasons for delay in seeking treatment for symptoms of an AMI and (2) to identify areas for further research. Using Cooper's (Synthesizing Research. 3rd ed. London: Sage; 1998) framework for integrative review, this manuscript synthesized the literature from 48 reports published from 1995 to 2003 to describe the primary reason(s) for women's prehospital delay. Three categories emerged to explain why women delay in seeking treatment: (1) clinical, (2) sociodemographic, and (3) psychosocial factors. These factors are found to be multifaceted and complex. The most significant reasons for delay in seeking treatment for symptoms of AMI are the following: atypical presentation of symptoms, severity of presenting symptoms, presence of other chronic illnesses that confused acute symptoms, correct attribution or labeling of symptoms to the heart, perceived seriousness of the symptoms, beliefs of low self-perceived vulnerability to heart attack, and engagement in various other coping mechanisms. This synthesis identified and clarified the current state of science regarding women's prehospital delay in seeking treatment for symptoms of an AMI. Areas for future research are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Decision Making*
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis
  • Myocardial Infarction / psychology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Research Design
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Women / education
  • Women / psychology*
  • Women's Health