Fears of disease and disability in elderly primary health care patients

Patient Educ Couns. 1998 May;34(1):75-81. doi: 10.1016/s0738-3991(98)00052-4.


Some diseases are more frightening than others to patients and every culture or society has its own most dreaded disease(s). In some previous studies it has been shown that the fears of the patients sometimes have their roots in events in family history. In this qualitative study fourteen men and women aged 66-83 years, all of whom were primary care patients were interviewed with regard to their fears in connection with their present symptoms as well as in general. The results showed that diseases believed to entail disability, bodily changes and/or loss of control over body or environment, were the most feared. These diseases are also likely to stigmatise or shame the bearer, i.e., to change the identity for the worse. This is in line with other studies, where control and autonomy is demonstrated to be essential for elderly people's self-esteem.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires