Young women's experiences of psychotic illness: a systematic review of qualitative research

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Abstract

Background

The relationship between young adulthood, women and psychosis was the focus for this systematic review. Age and gender are factors that can influence responses to illness. Research indicates that there are differences in how young men and women are affected biologically and psychosocially, including the presentation of a constellation of symptoms, response to anti-psychotic medications and how they assess their life circumstances. Yet in literature that examines experiences of young people with psychosis, the specific needs of young women are usually not presented separately. To better understand and address young adult women's healthcare and social service needs, a synthesis of evidence addressing the relationship between young adulthood, women and psychosis is needed.

Objectives

The aim of this systematic review was to synthesize the best available evidence on the experiences of young adult women (aged 18–35 years) living with a psychotic illness in the community. Specifically, the review question was:

Objectives

What are the experiences of young adult women living with a psychotic illness?

Inclusion criteria Types of participants

Participants were young women between 18 and 35 years of age who were living with a psychotic illness in the community.

Phenomena of interest

The phenomenon of interest was the experiences of living with a psychotic illness of women aged 18–35 years in the community. Experiences were defined broadly as and inclusive of perceptions and experiences with health and social systems.

Context

The context for this review was the community setting.

Types of studies

The current review included studies that focused on qualitative data including, but not limited to, designs such as phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, action research, feminist research and the qualitative component of mixed methods studies.

Search strategy

A three-step search strategy was used to locate both published and unpublished studies. The search was limited to studies published from 1995 to the search date of May 13, 2015.

Methodological quality

Two reviewers independently appraised the nine included studies using the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument (JBI-QARI) assessment tool.

Data extraction

Data were extracted from included papers using the standardized data extraction tool from JBI-QARI.

Data synthesis

Two reviewers independently reviewed the extracted findings to identify potential categories to pool similar findings. A third member of the team met with the reviewers to collaboratively review these derived categories to create a meta-synthesis that reflected a comprehensive set of synthesized findings.

Results

Based on the thematic findings from nine qualitative studies, two synthesized findings were identified: (1) the complexity of living with psychosis and finding health, and (2) the presence of harming and healing relationships in young women's lives. The included studies explored a range of experiences relevant for women within the broader phenomenon of experiences of living with a psychotic illness, including experiences within healthcare and social systems.

Conclusion

The systematic exploration of the literature resulted in identification of nine studies of moderate-to-high methodological quality that met the inclusion criteria. The ConQual evaluation of the level of evidence resulted in synthesized finding 1 (the complexity of living with psychosis and finding health) rated as moderate and synthesized finding 2 (the presence of harming and healing relationships in young women's lives) rated as low. Practitioners can use these findings to guide practice. Further research exploring other experiences relevant for this population is needed.

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