Unraveling the mysteries of timing: Women's perceptions about time to treatment for cardiac symptoms

Nancy E. Schoenberg, Jane C. Peters, Elaine M. Drew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Women in the USA are at disproportionate risk of dying from a myocardial infarction (MI), of suffering disabilities following an MI, and of reinfarcting and dying within a year of their initial MI. Various explanations, including women's older age at clinical manifestation of coronary heart disease (CHD) and higher likelihood of co-morbidities, have been offered for women's heightened risk of poor outcomes. Less frequently, research has focused on examining women's prolonged time elapse between symptom onset and biomedical treatment, a phenomenon that renders women less likely to undergo lifesaving reperfusion strategies. [1] To explore factors and circumstances that may shape CHD time to treatment, 40 middle age and older women living in Kentucky, USA, half with diagnosed CHD and half with chronic conditions considered to be risk factors for CHD, participated in a series of in-depth interviews. While much of the existing CHD literature implicates individual responsibility as the determining feature in time to treatment, these women's narratives suggested that treatment decisions inextricably are linked to broader social and structural constraints. Such supra-individual forces that shape the CHD experiences of women include the social construction of "standard" cardiac symptoms based on male norms that ultimately confuse symptom detection, women's negative encounters with health care providers who discount their knowledge, the competing social demands women face when threatened by a serious illness, and structural barriers delimiting women's health care choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-284
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2003


  • Coronary heart disease
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Lay perceptions of illness
  • Symptomatology
  • USA
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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