Chronic illness perception in adolescence: implications for the doctor-patient relationship

J Paediatr Child Health. 1997 Apr;33(2):107-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.1997.tb01010.x.


Objective: To describe the inter-relationship of chronic illness severity as perceived by adolescents with both psychosocial well-being and objective measures of illness severity. Additionally to compared the adolescents' perception of illness severity with how their physicians believe that the adolescents perceive their illness severity.

Methods: The psychological well-being of 48 adolescents with either cystic fibrosis (CF) or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) was measured by four standardized questionnaires. The adolescents' perception of severity of illness was measured using an original instrument (PSCI), and this measure was compared to their physicians' estimates of how the adolescents perceived the severity of their illness and clinical illness.

Results: There were 24 patients in both the CF and IDDM groups. Both groups were found to function well psychosocially; although, there were more patients with low self image compared to normative values. Depression and low self image were associated with a greater adolescent perception of illness severity. For both chronic illness groups, physicians' assessment of assumed adolescent perception of disease severity correlated with clinical indices of disease severity and was higher than the perception of illness severity reported by the adolescents. For adolescents with CF, but not with IDDM, perception of severity of chronic illness correlated with clinical indices.

Conclusions: For adolescents with chronic illness, their perception of illness severity is an important indicator of psychosocial well-being. Physicians do not accurately infer their patients' perception of illness severity.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cystic Fibrosis / psychology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Observer Variation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Social Adjustment