The ‘everyday work’ of living with multimorbidity in socioeconomically deprived areas of Scotland

Rosaleen O'Brien, Sally Wyke, Bruce Guthrie, Graham Watt, Stewart W. Mercer


Background: Multimorbidity is common in patients living in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation and is associated with poor quality of life, but the reasons behind this are not clear. Exploring the ‘everyday life work’ of patients may reveal important barriers to self-management and wellbeing. Objective: To investigate the relationship between the management of multimorbidity and ‘everyday life work’ in patients living in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation in Scotland, as part of a programme of work on multimorbidity and deprivation. Design: Qualitative study: individual semi-structured interviews of 14 patients (8 women and 6 men) living in deprived areas with multimorbidity, exploring how they manage. Analysis was continuous and iterative. We report the findings in relation to everyday life work. Results: The in-depth analysis revealed four key themes: (i) the symbolic significance of everyday life work to evidence the work of being ‘normal’; (ii) the usefulness of everyday life work in managing symptoms; (iii) the impact that mental health problems had on everyday life work; and (iv) issues around accepting help for everyday life tasks. Overall, most struggled with the amount of work required to establish a sense of normalcy in their everyday lives, especially in those with mental–physical multimorbidity. Conclusions: Everyday life work is an important component of self-management in patients with multimorbidity in deprived areas, and is commonly impaired, especially in those with mental health problems. Interventions to improve self-management support for patients living with multimorbidity may benefit from an understanding of the role of everyday life work. 

Journal of Comorbidity 2014;4(1):1–10


multimorbidity, complexity, self-management, chronic illness, quality of life, mental health, primary care, qualitative

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    ISSN 2235-042X