Biographical restorying following a heart attack

  • Eileen Carver

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Coronary heart disease remains a leading cause of chronic illness in the world.
Addressing lifestyle risk factors through health-related behaviour change is a key
component of managing this condition. There is a lack of understanding from the
patient’s perspective, of the ways in which information is used to support healthrelated
behaviour change. This study sought an increased understanding of the
social processes and interactions influencing individual health-related behaviour
change after a heart attack.
A constructivist grounded theory approach was used and narrative inquiry
informed the development of the theory of biographical restorying following a heart
attack. A symbolic interactionist framework facilitated an increased understanding
of how the life story of those who had experienced a heart attack were shaped
through interaction with their social world. Twenty-five semi-structured interviews
were conducted with 14 individuals. The interviews took place at approximately 3
weeks and 6 months after their heart attack.
The theory of biographical restorying proposed four different narratives of life after
a heart attack. Individuals told of lives that were either continuing as before or a
struggle, limited or enhanced in response to the physical sensations they had
experienced during their illness episode. The cycle of acting and reflecting on
those sensations informed, adapted and reinforced both illness beliefs and health
related concepts.
Medical practitioners were the most valued source of knowledge for those who
experienced a heart attack. However, illness perceptions interpreted by those who
had experienced a heart attack were different to those of medical personnel.
Participants of this study increased their lay-knowledge to create a narrative
around the causes, consequences and controllability of their condition. The
internet was not widely accessed for health-related information by this group.
The theory offers insights into the timing of interventions designed to support the
adaptation of specific illness beliefs and an approach to cardiac rehabilitation that
is better to suited to the needs of an individual.
Date of AwardNov 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorJulie Scholes (Supervisor)

Cite this