Aim. The aim of this review is to summarize current knowledge about gender differences in perceptions of coping and social support among patients who have experienced myocardial infarction.
Rationale. Women with coronary heart disease have physical, social and medical disadvantages compared with their male counterparts, which can influence their perception of recovery after cardiac events. No review has been found which focuses on gender differences in coping and social support in myocardial infarction patients.
Method. A computerized search was conducted using the keywords ‘myocardial infarction’, ‘coping’, ‘gender differences’ and ‘social support’. Forty-one articles, published between 1990 and October 2002, were scrutinized.
Findings. Two studies report that women used more coping strategies than men. Several qualitative studies found that women used a variety of coping strategies. Women minimized the impact of the disease, tended to delay in seeking treatment and did not want to bother others with their health problems. Household activities were important to them and aided their recovery. Men were more likely to involve their spouses in their recovery, and resuming work and keeping physically fit were important to them. Women tended to report that they had less social support up to 1 year after a myocardial infarction compared with men. They received less information about the disease and rehabilitation and experienced lack of belief in their heart problems from caregivers. Further, they received less assistance with household duties from informal caregivers. Men tended to report more support from their spouses than did women.
Conclusions. Traditional gender-role patterns may influence the recovery of patients who have experienced myocardial infarction. Caregivers may need to be more sensitive to gender-specific needs with regard to risk profiles, social roles, and the patient's own role identity. For many women, especially older ones, household duties and family responsibilities may be an opportunity and a base for cardiac rehabilitation.