Personal strengths reported by people with chronic illness: A qualitative study

Health Expect. 2018 Aug;21(4):787-795. doi: 10.1111/hex.12674. Epub 2018 Feb 25.


Background: Self-management of chronic illness can be highly demanding and people need to mobilize their personal strengths to live well with their condition. More knowledge is needed about how people with chronic illness perceive and use their personal strengths as a basis for better integrating empowering person-centred approaches into health care.

Objective: To explore what people with chronic illness describe as their strengths relevant to their health and well-being.

Setting and participants: Thirty-nine participants (11 men) from 4 outpatient self-management programmes were recruited to individual or group interviews. Participants included patients with chronic respiratory disease (n = 7), chronic pain (n = 18) and morbid obesity (n = 14). Interviews were analysed using content analysis.

Results: A number of personal strengths were reported and categorized into 3 domains: (i) Internal strengths, (ii) External strengths and (iii) Self-management strategies. Internal strengths included being persistent, having a positive outlook, being kind and caring, experiencing positive emotions, being kind towards oneself, reconciling oneself with the situation, having courage and having knowledge and insight. External strengths included support from family, friends, peers and health-care providers. Self-management strategies included being active, planning and prioritizing, reducing stress, goal setting and seeking knowledge and help.

Discussion and conclusion: The study provides insights into personal strengths as reported by people with chronic illness. The results complement prior findings on strengths in people with health challenges and can aid in incorporating person-centred approaches into health care.

Keywords: chronic illness; empowerment; health assets; personal strengths; salutogenesis; self-management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Care / psychology*
  • Social Support*