Differences in social support and illness perceptions among South Asian and Caucasian patients with coronary artery disease

Heart Lung. May-Jun 2010;39(3):180-7. doi: 10.1016/j.hrtlng.2009.06.016. Epub 2009 Sep 3.


Objective: Social support and illness perceptions may affect recovery from a cardiac event or procedure. Previous research has found that patients of South Asian origin with coronary artery disease (CAD) have lower levels of social support and may perceive different causes of their condition. The purpose of this study was to quantitatively investigate differences in social support and illness perceptions between Caucasian and South Asian patients with CAD.

Methods: A total of 562 inpatients with CAD (53 [9%] South Asian) were recruited from 2 hospitals. The Medical Outcomes Study social support scale and Illness Perception Questionnaire were administered to examine ethnocultural differences in total social support and subscales, and in illness perceptions subscales, including causes of illness.

Results: South Asian participants had significantly lower levels of tangible (P=.001) and emotional/informational support (P < .001) compared with Caucasian participants. South Asians were less likely than Caucasians to believe they have personal control over their illness (P < .001). Trends were observed, with South Asian participants being more likely to attribute their condition to stress/worry (P=.04) and poor medical care in the past (P=.02) and less likely to attribute their illness to aging (P=.03) compared with Caucasian participants.

Conclusion: Lower levels of social support among South Asians in Canada may have negative effects on recovery and prognosis. Our results support qualitative findings suggesting South Asians perceive their illness to be a result of fate or related to stress. Future studies should investigate interventions targeted at modifying illness perceptions among this group in an attempt to improve risk-reducing behavior and secondary prevention use.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asia / ethnology
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / ethnology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Prognosis
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires