Background: Empirical research and health policies on asthma have focused on children and young adults, even though asthma morbidity and mortality are higher among older asthmatics.
Objective: To explore the relationship of asthma-related beliefs and self-reported controller medication adherence in older asthmatics.
Design: An observational study of asthma beliefs and self-management among older adults.
Participants: Asthmatics ages ≥ 60 years (N = 324, mean age 67.4 ± 6.8, 28 % white, 32 % black, 30 % Hispanic) were recruited from primary care practices in New York City and Chicago.
Main measures: Self-reported controller medication adherence was assessed using the Medication Adherence Report Scale. Based on the Common Sense Model of Self-Regulation, patients were asked if they believe they only have asthma with symptoms, their physician can cure their asthma, and if their asthma will persist. Beliefs on the benefit, necessity and concerns of treatment use were also assessed. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine the association of beliefs with self-reported medication adherence.
Key results: The majority (57.0 %) of patients reported poor adherence. Poor self-reported adherence was more common among those with erroneous beliefs about asthma illness and treatments, including the "no symptoms, no asthma" belief (58.7 % vs. 31.7 %, respectively, p < 0.001), "will not always have asthma" belief (34.8 % vs. 12.5 %, p < 0.001), and the "MD can cure asthma" belief (21.7 % vs. 9.6 %, p = 0.01). Adjusting for illness beliefs, treatment beliefs and demographics, patients with a "no symptoms, no asthma" belief had lower odds of having good self-reported adherence (odds ratio [OR] 0.45, 95 % confidence interval [CI] 0.23-0.86), as did those with negative beliefs about the benefits (OR 0.73, 95 % CI 0.57-0.94) and necessity (OR 0.89, 95 % CI 0.83-0.96) of treatment.
Conclusions: Illness and treatment beliefs have a strong influence on self-reported medication adherence in older asthmatics. Interventions to improve medication adherence in older asthmatics by modifying illness and treatment beliefs warrant study.