Loneliness as experienced by women living with chronic illness in rural areas

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


Chronic illness is often accompanied by multiple life altering challenges for individuals especially those living in rural locations. Rural dwellers generally do not have readily accessible healthcare resources; as a result, there is a risk for poor heath related outcomes. Loneliness is one such outcome. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the existing body of knowledge related to loneliness as experienced by women living with chronic illnesses in rural areas. This was accomplished by identifying and exploring factors related to loneliness. The aims of this study were to: (a) to describe the levels of loneliness, depression, stress, and social support for a group of rural women with a chronic illness; (b) identify the factors associated with loneliness; and (c) explore participants' shared conversations to gain further insight into the rural chronically-ill woman's experience of loneliness. This study was conducted as a secondary analysis of data previously collected by the Women to Women (WTW) research team at Montana State University. The WTW study provided rural women with chronic illnesses computer training and support through an online forum. The data for the secondary analysis were generated by 57 women. The key concepts were: loneliness, depression, stress, and social support. Age, education, degree of rurality, employment status, and length of chronic illness were the demographic characteristics of interest. Degree of rurality was assigned using the MSU Rurality Index. These characteristics and the key concepts were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate analytic techniques. Content analysis was the method used to analyze the women's conversations in the online forum. The data were obtained from 12 women who were identified as the most vulnerable to loneliness. Three categories were defined using this method: longing for loved ones, "listening" from the background, and changing relationships. Results of this study supported previous researchers' findings of correlations between loneliness and depression, social support and stress. There was no significant relationship between loneliness and degree of rurality; however, length of chronic illness was significant. Level of education was identified as an area of interest for further nursing research.




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