• chronic illness;
  • clinical research;
  • hypertension;
  • intentional non-adherence;
  • medication adherence;
  • unintentional non-adherence

Aims.  The primary aim of this study was to describe the unintentional and intentional aspects of non-adherence in patients diagnosed with hypertension. A secondary aim was to examine the relationships between medication adherence and purposeful actions (intentional non-adherence), patterned behaviours (unintentional non-adherence) and demographic questionnaire variables.

Background.  Non-adherence to medications continues to be a significant health-care issue, the extent and consequences of which have been well documented. Despite considerable research over the past five decades, little progress has been made in solving this healthcare problem. Recent literature indicates that this lack of progress can be attributed to the fact that past research has concentrated solely upon either the unintentional or the intentional aspects of non-adherence, instead of addressing both facets simultaneously.

Methods.  A quantitative, descriptive, correlation research design was employed using Johnson's (2002) Medication Adherence Model as a theoretical framework. A convenience sample of 73 participants with hypertension, attending the outpatients’ clinics of two university hospitals was recruited. Data were collected by means of a researcher administered questionnaire and analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences.

Results.  High levels of medication adherence with a mean adherence score of 4·75 (maximum 5) were reported. Low and medium levels of purposeful actions and medium and high levels of patterned behaviours towards medication taking were found. Correlational analyses did not demonstrate statistically significant associations.

Conclusions.  Both the intentional and unintentional dimensions of medication-taking are simultaneously considered by patients to varying levels when adhering to therapeutic regimens. This is an important research area for nurses as it facilitates an increased understanding of non-adherence and, in so doing, aids the uncovering of more effective interventions aimed at sustaining lifelong pharmacotherapy.

Relevance to clinical practice.  By acknowledging a broader approach to patient medication-taking, nurses will be able more effectively to assess and intervene in non-adherent behaviours and actions.