Hopelessness as a Response to Physical Illness


  • Susan L. Dunn

    1. Susan L. Dunn, RN, MSN, Kappa Epsilon-at-Large, FAAN, Doctoral Candidate, College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, and Assistant Professor of Nursing, Hope College, Holland, MI. The author thanks Barbara Given, RN, PhD, FAAN, Distinguished University Professor at Michigan State University, College of Nursing, for her guidance and critique of this work, Linda Scott, RN, PhD, FAAN, Associate Professor at Grand Valley State University, Kirkhof School of Nursing, for her critique, Celia Wills, RN, PhD, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, College of Nursing, for her early guidance with this analysis. Correspondence to Ms. Dunn, Hope College, Nursing Department, Holland MI, 49423–3698. E-mail: dunns@hope.edu
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Purpose: To analyze hopelessness as a psychological response to physical illness, differentiate hopelessness from depression, and discuss measures of hopelessness.

Organizing Framework: Walker and Avant's (1995) concept analysis strategy.

Method: A review of the literature from 1983 to 2004 was completed, with a focus on hopelessness theory and measurement.

Findings: Although hopelessness is closely related to depression, distinct characteristics of hopelessness were identified. A continuum of attributes of hopelessness and depression was derived. Hopelessness has been examined in a variety of populations with several different instruments. One established measure was selected for discussion.

Conclusions: Continued study of hopelessness as a psychological response to physical illness is needed, including the continued differentiation of hopelessness from depression, further analysis of the continuum of hopelessness and depression, and the differentiation of state from trait hopelessness. Research to validate this conceptualization will enhance accuracy of the diagnosis of hopelessness and testing of nursing inteventions.