Inner strength as a health resource among older women
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Background Long life does not inevitably mean more healthy years; older women have an increased risk of disabilities, diseases and adverse life events. Nevertheless, many older women experience health. This may be explained by possessing resources that promote health, despite adversities. Inner strength is seen as a resource as such. In this thesis inner strength is interpreted according to a theoretical model where inner strength comprises four interrelated and interacting dimensions: connectedness, creativity, flexibility and firmness, and being rated by the Inner Strength Scale (ISS).
Aim and methods The overall purpose of this thesis was to explore inner strength as a health resource among older women. In study I six focus group interviews were performed with older women (66-84 years; n = 29) and the interviews were analysed by a concept driven approach and by means of qualitative content analysis. Studies II–IV had a quantitative, cross-sectional design. A questionnaire was sent to all older women (65 years and older) living in Åland, an autonomous island community in the Baltic Sea, and 1555 (57%) women responded. The data was analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics.
Results In study I, exploring how inner strength and its dimensions can be identified in narratives of older women, connectedness was interpreted as a striving to be in communion, creativity as the ability to make the best of the situation, firmness as having a spirit of determination – “it is all up to you”, and flexibility as a balancing act. The results of study II showed that strong inner strength was associated with better mental health, but not physical health. In exploring factors associated with health-related quality of life, fewer symptoms of depressive disorders was the strongest explanatory variable, and together with not feeling lonely associated with better both physical health and mental health. Better physical health was also explained by not having a diagnosed disease, being of lower age and the opportunity to engage in meaningful leisure activities. Better mental health was additionally explained by having enough money for personal needs. In study III the result showed that non-depressed women were likely to have a strong inner strength, as well as never or seldom feeling lonely, taking fewer prescribed drugs, feeling needed and having the opportunity to engage in meaningful leisure activities. In study IV poorer mental health was associated with weaker inner strength in total, and in all four dimensions of inner strength. Symptoms of depressive disorders and feeling lonely were related to lower scores in three of the dimensions (except firmness and creativity, respectively) and poorer physical health was associated with lower scores in two of the dimensions (firmness and flexibility). Some other health threats were significantly associated with only one of the dimensions (connectedness or creativity), and others were not significantly associated at all.
Conclusion The results add nuance to the notion of inner strength and deepen empirical knowledge about the phenomenon. It is elucidated that the ISS can be used not only to rate inner strength but also to offer guidance as to the areas (i.e. dimensions) in which interventions may be profitable. It is further shown that inner strengths can be identified in narratives of older women. Mental ill health has shown to have overall the strongest association with weakened inner strength among community-dwelling older women. The causality can, though, not be studied due to the cross-sectional design; therefore, longitudinal studies are recommended. Notwithstanding that limitation, the findings can be used as a knowledge base in further research within this field.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2016. , 72 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1779
Connectedness, creativity, flexibility, firmness, inner strength, old age, women
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-116964ISBN: 978-91-7601-401-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-116964DiVA: diva2:903676
2016-03-08, Vårdvetarhusets Aula, Umeå, 09:00 (Swedish)
Edberg, Anna-Karin, Professor
Santamäki Fischer, ReginaLundman, BeritNygren, BjörnAnette, Häggblom
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