Understanding the relationship between stress, distress and healthy lifestyle behaviour: a qualitative study of patients and general practitioners

McKenzie, Suzanne H., and Harris, Mark F. (2013) Understanding the relationship between stress, distress and healthy lifestyle behaviour: a qualitative study of patients and general practitioners. BMC Family Practice, 14. 166. pp. 1-8.

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Abstract

Background: The process of initiating and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviours is complex, includes a number of distinct phases and is not static. Theoretical models of behaviour change consider psychological constructs such as intention and self efficacy but do not clearly consider the role of stress or psychological distress. General practice based interventions addressing lifestyle behaviours have been demonstrated to be feasible and effective however it is not clear whether general practitioners (GPs) take psychological health into consideration when discussing lifestyle behaviours. This qualitative study explores GPs' and patients' perspectives about the relationship between external stressors, psychological distress and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviours.

Methods: Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 16 patients and 5 GPs. Transcripts from the interviews were thematically analysed and a conceptual model developed to explain the relationship between external stressors, psychological distress and healthly lifestyle behaviours.

Results: Participants were motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle however they described a range of external factors that impacted on behaviour in both positive and negative ways, either directly or via their impact on psychological distress. The impact of external factors was moderated by coping strategies, beliefs, habits and social support. In some cases the process of changing or maintaining healthy behaviour also caused distress. The concept of a threshold level of distress was evident in the data with patients and GPs describing a certain level of distress required before it negatively influenced behaviour.

Conclusion: Maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviours is complex and constantly under challenge from external stressors. Practitioners can assist patients with maintaining healthy behaviour by providing targeted support to moderate the impact of external stressors.

Item ID: 30689
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1471-2296
Additional Information:

© 2013 McKenzie and Harris; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2014 01:59
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111717 Primary Health Care @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111716 Preventive Medicine @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920205 Health Education and Promotion @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920401 Behaviour and Health @ 50%
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