Dual, Yet Dueling Illnesses: Multiple Chronic Illness Experience at Midlife

Qual Health Res. 2015 Sep;25(9):1271-82. doi: 10.1177/1049732314559948. Epub 2014 Nov 24.


The prevalence of multiple chronic illnesses is increasing dramatically, especially among those in middle adulthood, yet much prior research has focused on the experience of multiple morbidity among older adults. We examined the online illness narratives (blogs) of 10 men and women aged 36 to 59 to better understand the experience of living with multiple chronic illnesses at midlife. Multiple morbidity presents distinct challenges to those at midlife: (a) diagnosis and management of multiple illnesses, (b) need for information, (c) identity dilemmas and threats to self-image, and (d) stigma and social rejection. Relinquishing the work identity was especially difficult for participants because it threatened to foreshorten middle adulthood and push them prematurely into late adulthood. Participants used their blogs to revise their identities, alleviate isolation, and inform and guide others.

Keywords: illness and disease, chronic; illness and disease, experiences; research, online; stigma; suffering.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blogging
  • Canada
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Chronic Conditions / psychology*
  • Multiple Chronic Conditions / therapy
  • Narration
  • Self Concept
  • Social Stigma
  • Stereotyping
  • United States