Imprisoned in the Cultural Stereotypes of Overactive Bladder: Cultural Meanings of Disease and Sick Role Adaptation in Hong Kong

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Abstract

Background

Diseases often carry cultural meanings and metaphors, and these meanings can influence illness experiences and behavioral responses.

Objectives

This research investigated how old cultural stereotypes and new social understandings of overactive bladder (OAB) intertwined to influence sick role adaptation and behavioral responses among those with OAB.

Methods

A qualitative approach using in-depth individual, semistructured interviews was adopted. Thirty patients having OAB were purposively sampled from a patient self-help group for people with OAB.

Results

The cultural stereotypes about OAB—as an “old people” disease, as a hopeless disease without cure, as a sexually related disease, and as a disease of substance use—had significant impact on the social and illness experiences of participants, leading to difficulty in adapting to their sick role, indicated by behavioral responses of denial, concealment, resignation, and self-seclusion.

Discussion

Cultural stereotypes of OAB significantly influenced sick role adaptation, which affected illness experiences of persons with OAB. These cultural stereotypes were associated with behavioral responses that led to difficulties in coping with OAB.

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