Background: The beliefs patients hold about their disease and corresponding treatment have been shown to predict recovery in cardiac patients.
Purpose: However, it is not known to what extent these beliefs change during participation in cardiac rehabilitation and whether this is related to psychological indicators of outcome.
Method: Illness perceptions and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) were measured upon entry to (T0) and completion of (T1) a 3-month outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program in 158 cardiac patients.
Results: Repeated-measures ANOVA revealed that all illness perceptions other than timeline and personal control changed significantly over the course of cardiac rehabilitation. Overall, cardiac rehabilitation patients came to view their illness as more benign. Further analysis revealed that perceiving fewer emotional consequences of the illness, gaining a better understanding, and attributing fewer symptoms to the illness at the end of cardiac rehabilitation, was related to better HRQOL.
Conclusion: Illness perceptions change during cardiac rehabilitation and these changes are associated with enhanced quality of life. Clinical trials have shown illness beliefs in cardiac patients to be modifiable during hospital admission; our results suggest that cardiac rehabilitation may provide a second window of opportunity during which illness perceptions can be actively monitored and modified if maladaptive.