Adherence to medication in stroke survivors: a qualitative comparison of low and high adherers

Br J Health Psychol. 2011 Sep;16(3):592-609. doi: 10.1348/2044-8287.002000. Epub 2010 Nov 19.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate factors that may explain variance in adherence to medication in stroke patients. Design. A qualitative comparison of high and low adherers to medication.

Methods: Thirteen participants, selected from a sample of 180 stroke survivors because they self-reported the lowest adherence to medication regimes, were matched with 13 reporting maximal adherence. All took part in semi-structured qualitative interviews.

Results: Thematic analysis revealed that those with poor adherence to medication reported both intentional and non-intentional non-adherence. Two main themes emerged: the importance of stability of a medication routine and beliefs about medication and treatment. High adherers reported remembering to take their medication and seeking support from both family and health professionals. They also had a realistic understanding of the consequences of non-adherence, and believed their medicine did them more good than harm. Low adherers reported forgetting their medication, sometimes intentionally not taking their medication and receiving poor support from medical staff. They disliked taking their medication, had limited knowledge about the medication rationale or intentions, and often disputed its benefits.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that appropriate medication and illness beliefs coupled with a stable medication routine are helpful in achieving optimal medication adherence in stroke patients. Interventions designed to target both intentional and non-intentional adherence may help maximize medication adherence in stroke patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Social Support
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult