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Abstract

The proposition examined here is that there are sex differences in the enactment of the sick role. Specifically, in comparing the recovery of 50 male and 50 female patients following open heart surgery, it was hypothesized that male patients would (a) be transferred from the cardiac recovery room earlier, (b) be discharged from the hospital earlier, (c) achieve independence in self-care and in ambulation earlier, and (d) receive fewer pain medications and tranquilizers. Support was found only for the hypotheses of earlier hospital discharge and earlier self-care. The patient's physical condition—indicated by type of surgery, time in operating room, time on bypass, and units of blood—was related to time in recovery room and length of postoperative hospitalization. Of the variables examined, age emerged as the most powerful predictor of medication dosage, with older patients receiving significantly fewer analgesics and tranquilizers. The following conclusions were reached: (a) the salience of sex role expectations for sick role behavior varies with the particular measure considered and (b) the overall significance of sex role expectations in determining sick role behavior was slight for this sample of seriously ill patients.