Introduction and Objectives Many people with severe asthma experience frequent debilitating symptoms and treatment side effects, both of which can have a significant impact on their quality of life. While previous qualitative studies have investigated attitudes to healthcare usage among people with severe asthma symptoms, there is relatively little evidence about how people with ongoing severe asthma cope with its broader impact on their lives. This study sought to examine how people with severe asthma and their families view the impact of the condition and how this affects their approach to its management.
Methods Eight focus groups were held in five tertiary centres around the UK in 2010. Participants were grouped into young people with severe asthma (N=8), adults with severe asthma (N=26) and parents of children with severe asthma (N=17). Discussion guides were initially structured around the revised health belief model (Rosenstock IM, Strecher VJ and Becker MH. Social Learning Theory and the Health Belief Model. Health Educ Behav 1988;15:175–183) which suggests that health behaviours are driven by perceptions in four areas: illness threat, costs and barriers to action, self-efficacy and value of reduced threat. A grounded theory approach was adopted, with concurrent data collection and analysis and adaptations made to the discussion guide in line with emerging themes (Charmaz K. Constructing Grounded Theory. London: Sage, 2006).
Results Many people felt relatively powerless to improve their ongoing health-related quality of life, because the perceived threats to it posed by their asthma were closely matched by perceived threats of treatment side-effects. Coping strategies to improve quality of life were therefore often targeted at social interactions, rather than improving asthma control. The revised health belief model appeared to be relevant to people affected by severe asthma.
Conclusions Social support for people with severe asthma may facilitate improved quality of life and interventions that deliver this should be investigated.