Background. Heart disease is a severe long-term illness, which often requires lifestyle changes and self-care and affects the life of the whole family. Perceived family health is highly complex. It combines people's values and everyday experiences, such as knowledge about their own health, what they do to promote their health, how their life progresses, and how they feel physically and emotionally.
Aim. The aim of this paper is to report a study to describe the perceived health of families of patients with heart disease and to ascertain factors related to family health.
Methods. Data were collected by questionnaire with a convenience sample of 161 family members of patients receiving treatment on two medical wards of a university hospital in southern Finland. Data were analysed using means and medians and tested by parametric and non-parametric tests. A stepwise regression analysis was also used.
Results. The most important predictors of family health were family structural factors, effect of illness symptoms on daily life, and family relationships. The strongest predictor was family structural factors. It was found that the better the family structure and relationships, the better the family health. Similarly, the greater the effect of the illness on the patient's daily life, the worse the family health.
Conclusion. The findings suggest that supporting family functioning in the families of people with heart disease is an important challenge for family nursing.