Objective: There is accumulating evidence to indicate that the illness representations of significant others are important for understanding patients' responses to chronic disease. The aims of the present study were to (a) assess the illness representations of patients with type 2 diabetes and their partners, (b) determine the extent of agreement between patient and partner representations, and (c) examine whether partners' representations mediate the relationships between patients' representations and their prospective self-management behaviors.
Methods: Patients' and partners' representations of diabetes were assessed with the Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire [Moss-Morris R, Weinman J, Petrie K, Horne R, Cameron LD, Buick, D. The revised illness perception questionnaire (IPQ-R). Psychol Health 2002;17:116] at baseline (n=164). Self-management behaviors were assessed 12 months later with self-report measures of physical activity, medication, and a food frequency questionnaire.
Results: Patients scored lower on the illness coherence dimension, indicating that they reported a poorer understanding of the condition (t=-2.66, df=163, P=.009) relative to their partners. Patients demonstrated higher scores for personal control than their partners (t=2.01, df=163, P=.046). Mediational analyses indicated that partners' perceived timeline of diabetes partially mediated the relationship between patients' representations and their self-management behaviors including physical activity and dietary intake. In addition, partners' personal control representations partially mediated the relationship between patients' representations and physical activity.
Conclusion: It was demonstrated that patient-partner dyads generally share similar representations of type 2 diabetes and perceived control over the condition. Furthermore, there was evidence that partners' representations partially mediated the relationships between patients' representations and their prospective self-management behaviors.