Health  Vol.7 No.9 , September 2015
Older Adults’ Explanatory Models of Colds and Flu
ABSTRACT
Systematic data collection and analysis techniques were used in Los Angeles to discover older adults’ shared explanatory models (EM) of the causes, prevention, symptoms, treatment and consequences of late life illnesses, including influenza and the common cold. Recorded narratives also were analyzed to illustrate similarities and differences in shared cultural knowledge of these illnesses. Consensus analyses results suggest that shared EM of influenza and the common cold are similar. Participants identified both illnesses as contagious, caused or exacerbated by bad weather, but not the result of life , aging or heredity. Other shared cultural knowledge includes that both illnesses can be treated with home remedies, over-the-counter medications and medical care; both illnesses cause discomfort but are not serious, life-threatening or disabling. Despite the similarities and the apparent merging of the two illnesses in popular thought, many older adults do distinguish them, based on symptom patterns and severity, as revealed in their transcribed narratives. Consistent with other studies, participants attribute gastrointestinal symptoms to influenza but not to colds. They do not understand the potential role of life , age and chronic conditions in etiology and onset, and they are not concerned with their vulnerability to the potential sequelae of influenza. Public health education explaining the effects of life on susceptibility and vulnerability to the flu, how to distinguish and appropriately treat colds and the flu, and when to contact physicians, is recommended for older adults. Mixed method studies can prove useful at the planning stages of such interventions.

Cite this paper
Hurwicz, M. and Rose, M. (2015) Older Adults’ Explanatory Models of Colds and Flu. Health, 7, 1183-1195. doi: 10.4236/health.2015.79133.
References
[1]   Kleinman, A. (1978) Concepts and a Model for the Comparison of Medical Systems as Cultural Systems. Social Science and Medicine, 12B, 85-93.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0160-7987(78)90014-5

[2]   Kleinman, A. (1980) Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture. University of California Press, Berkeley.

[3]   Garro, L. (1995) Individual or Societal Responsibility? Explanations of Diabetes in an Anishinaabe (Ojibway) Community. Social Science and Medicine, 40, 37-46.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(94)00125-D

[4]   Garro, L. (1996) Intracultural Variation in Causal Accounts of Diabetes: A Comparison of Three Canadian Anishinaabe (Ojibway) Communities. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 20, 381-420. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00117086

[5]   Schrauf, R.W. and Iris, M. (2011) Using Consensus Analysis to Inves-tigate Cultural Models of Alzheimer’s Disease. In: Kronenfeld, D.B., Bennardo, G., de Munck, V.C. and Fischer, M.D., Eds., A Companion to Cognitive Anthropology, Blackwell Publishing Limited, Oxford, 548-568.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00117086

[6]   Good, B. (1977) The Heart of What’s the Matter: The Semantics of Illness in Iran. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 1, 25-58.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00114809

[7]   Blumhagen, D. (1982) The Meaning of Hyper-Tension. In: Chrisman, N.J. and Maretzki, T.W., Eds., Clinically Applied Anthropology, D. Reidel, Dordrecht, 297-323.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-9180-0_11

[8]   Garro, L. (1988) Explaining High Blood Pressure: Variation in Knowledge About Illness. American Ethnologist, 90, 98-119.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/ae.1988.15.1.02a00070

[9]   Heurtin-Roberts, S. (1993) ‘High-Pertension’—The Uses of a Chronic Folk Illness for Personal Adaptation. Social Science and Medicine, 37, 285-294.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(93)90260-B

[10]   Helman, C. (1978) “Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever”—Folk Models of Infection in an English Suburban Community and Their Relation to Medical Treatment. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 2, 107-138.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(93)90260-B

[11]   McCombie, S.C. (1987) Folk Flu and Viral Syndrome: An Epidemiological Perspective. Social Science and Medicine, 25, 987-993.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(87)90003-7

[12]   Baer, R., Weller, S., Pachter, L., Trotter, R., de Alba Garcia, J., Glazer, M., et al. (1999) Cross-Cultural Perspectives on the Common Cold: Data from Five Populations. Human Organization, 58, 251-260.
http://dx.doi.org/10.17730/humo.58.3.n4413t15t4220567

[13]   Baer, R., Weller, S., De Alba Garcia, J.G. and Salcedo Rocha, A.L. (2008) Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Physician and Lay Models of the Common Cold. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 22, 148-166.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1387.2008.00012.x

[14]   Prior, L., Evans, M.R. and Prout, H. (2011) Talking about Colds and Flu: The Lay Diagnosis of Two Common Illnesses among Older British People. Social Science & Medicine, 73, 922-928.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.09.054

[15]   Hurwicz, M. (2008) From Free List to Consensus: Explanatory Models of Late Life Illness. Paper Presented to the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco. (Unpublished)

[16]   Borgatti, S. (1992) ANTHROPAC 4.0. Analytic Technologies, Columbia.

[17]   Romney, A.K., Weller, S. and Batchelder, W.H. (1986) Culture as Consensus: A Theory of Culture and Informant Accuracy. American Anthropologist, 88, 313-338.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/aa.1986.88.2.02a00020

[18]   Weller, S.C. (2007) Cultural Consensus Theory: Applications and Frequently Asked Questions. Field Methods, 19, 339-368.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1525822X07303502

[19]   Griffith, H. (1992) Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery for People Over 50. Berkley Publishing Group, New York.

[20]   Hurwicz, M. (1995) Physician’s Norms and Health Care Decisions of Elderly Medicare Recipients. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 9, 211-235.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/maq.1995.9.2.02a00060

 
 
Top