Use of Qualitative Methods to Explore the Quality-of-Life Construct From a Consumer Perspective

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Abstract

Objective

This study explored the construct of quality of life from the perspective of adults diagnosed as having severe and persistent mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

Methods

Qualitative research strategies, specifically in-depth interviews (N=18) and focus groups (N=35), were used to collect data. Interviews and focus groups took place in hospitals, community clinics, community agencies, and clients' homes. A convenience, snowball sampling strategy was utilized.

Results

Analysis using the constant comparative method resulted in the identification of two dominant themes. These themes permeated the results, crossed all domains, influenced the linkages between domains, and clearly influenced how individuals frame their expectations regarding quality of life. The first theme was the presence of stigma and its effects on everyday life and future planning, and the second was the pervasive fear of the return of major positive symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations, delusions, and general loss of contact with reality. In addition, four quality-of-life domains were identified—the experience of illness, relationships, occupation, and sense of self.

Conclusions

Many persons with mental illness simply wish for the basics in life—mental and physical health, supportive relationships, meaningful occupations, and a positive sense of self—believing that acquisition of these basics will lead to a more satisfactory quality of life. Ensuring that they are able to obtain the basics requires action on their part, by those who support them, by service providers that interact with them, and by a more accepting society. (Psychiatric Services 58:240–244, 2007)

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