The contribution of illness perception to psychological distress in heart failure patients.


The influences on the psychological well-being of heart failure (HF) patients have received limited attention. Illness perceptions are a specific set of cognitive representations that have been shown to predict health-related outcomes in other patient groups. This study sought to explore the role of illness perceptions in the psychological well-being of HF patients by creating a profile of illness perceptions in HF and examining their relations with anxiety and depression.


Participants were 95 consecutive outpatients. Indices of psychological well-being were depression and anxiety, measured using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Illness perceptions were measured using the Illness Perception Questionnaire – Revised (IPQ-R). Functional status was also determined using the New York Heart Association (NYHA) classification.


Illness perceptions were associated with indices of psychological well-being. Regression analyses showed that illness perceptions accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in both depression and anxiety. The contribution of illness perceptions was greater than that made by traditional covariates (socio-demographic variables and functional status).


Results highlight dynamic interrelations between perceptions of illness and mental health indices. They also suggest that in considering the role of illness perceptions in psychological well-being, the primary focus should be on the overall dynamic of an individual’s illness experience rather than on specific illness dimensions. Findings highlight the potential role of illness perceptions in depression and anxiety in HF. This has implications for interventions to maximise psychological well-being in this patient group.