Aim. This paper describes gender differences in perceived coping, social support and quality of life 1, 4 and 12 months after myocardial infarction.
Background. There is a shortage of studies with a longitudinal research design investigating coping, social support and quality of life in women and men after myocardial infarction.
Methods. A longitudinal, descriptive and comparative design was used for the study, which included 74 women and 97 men. At 12 months, 60 women and 88 men remained. Data were collected using the Jalowiec Coping Scale, a social support questionnaire, the SF-36 Health Survey (health-related quality of life) and the Quality of Life Index-Cardiac version (quality of life). The data were collected during the period 1999–2001.
Results. No statistically significant changes over time in coping assessments emerged in the study group, except for fatalistic coping, which diminished over time in men. Women used more evasive coping than men at 4 and 12 months. The perceived efficiency in coping with physical aspects of the heart disease increased. More women than men perceived available support from grandchildren and staff of the church. Health-related quality of life increased in women and men in physical functioning, role-physical, vitality, social functioning, and role-emotional scales. Moreover, an improvement in the mental health scale was evident in women and a reduction in pain in men. No statistically significant gender differences were found for quality of life at any point in time.
Conclusions. The findings can be used to inform caregivers that optimistic, self-reliant and confrontational coping were the most frequently used by both women and men over the first year after myocardial infarction, and that confrontational coping has been shown to have positive outcomes in the longer term. Nurses should tell women about the importance of seeking prompt treatment and discuss health problems with caregivers and significant others. Care planning should include family members and significant others so that they can support and encourage patients to cope with problems in daily life.