BACKGROUND The aims were to investigate cross-culturally the subjective experience of long-term psychiatric patients to determine whether or not they would define their current life situation predominantly in terms of illness.
METHOD The design is a two-by-two comparison by ethnicity (Latino and Euro-American) and diagnosis (schizophrenia and unipolar depression) of 80 subjects for DSM-III-R criteria according to the SADS. Patients were interviewed using semi-structured interview (Context of Illness Experience) yielding data coded for qualitative and quantitative analyses.
RESULTS while significant ethnic differences were observed, nearly half the sample did not include illness in their description of their life situation. Other domains (e.g. activities, event) and the extent to which patients perceived themselves as in- or out-of-step with the "rhythm of life" were identified as central patient concerns.
CONCLUSIONS Empirical research on the subjective experiences and representations of the life situation of patients offers clues to the course and treatment of persistent psychiatric disorder.