Love and lifestyle: How ‘relational healthism’ structures couples’ talk of engagement with lifestyle advice associated with a new diagnosis of coronary heart disease

Martine Robson, Sarah Riley, Elizabeth Gagen, Donogh McKeogh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
72 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Objectives
Healthy lifestyle change improves outcomes in coronary heart disease (CHD), but is rarely sustained. To better understand barriers to lifestyle change, we examined couples’ talk of engaging with lifestyle advice after one partner receives a diagnosis of CHD.

Design
A longitudinal qualitative design, in which a poststructuralist discourse analysis was performed on 35 interviews, conducted with 22 heterosexual British people in a long term relationship. The interviews occurred over three months after one partner was referred to a cardiac rehabilitation programme designed to support lifestyle change.

Results
Couples understood their health as a shared practice underpinned by an ideological framework of healthism, creating a form of ‘relational healthism’. Practicing relational healthism was not straightforward because the practices of surveillance, control, and discipline related to healthism often contravened relationship norms of support, acceptance and respect for the other’s autonomy. Couples struggled to resolve this tension, dynamically adopting, resisting, and occasionally transforming discourses of health and love in ways that worked for and against engagement in lifestyle change.

Conclusion
In foregrounding the discursive and relational contexts of behavioural change engagement, we show the considerable complexity for couples, including costs related to engagement with lifestyle advice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1606-1622
Number of pages17
JournalPsychology and Health
Volume38
Issue number12
Early online date21 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • lifestyle change
  • couples health
  • coronary heart disease
  • discourse
  • healthism
  • Lifestyle change

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