Patients often worry considerably about biomedically mild and self-limiting conditions. A previous study on non-selected primary care patients showed that this could be partly explained by frequent associations with cases of serious illness in their family histories. This study further investigated these phenomena in middle aged men with a recent diagnosis of hypercholesterolaemia. Sixty-three out of 453, 35-45-year-old male participants were diagnosed with moderate hypercholesterolaemia (6.5-7.7 mmol/l) in a health survey and received 20-30 minutes of life-style counselling. These sessions were audio-taped, transcribed and analysed with respect to the subjects' references to their family histories. Of the 63 men, 28 (45%) mentioned their family history. The main content category in these talks was perceived threat or risk, comprising the seriousness of the event in the family history on one hand and its believed relevance on the other. Fatal, serious or premature disease was discussed. Prevailing lay knowledge and beliefs about hypercholesterolaemia, risk factors and disease causation seemed to determine what conditions in the family history were judged relevant by the men. Several of the men referred to heredity and several regarded emotional closeness important. In a few cases the event referred to mainly functioned as an illustration or example of lay knowledge and beliefs. This study provides support for the view that the family history can play an important role for how asymptomatic patients interpret their risk factors for disease. This is important for the development of consultation skills.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Family Medicine