New article on patients’ perspectives on causes of illness and roads to healing

Associate professor, Master of Arts, PhD at Roskilde University Tove Elisabeth Kruse published in December 2009 her senior researcher project entitled ‘Interpretation of illness and use of history. A patients’ perspective on causes of illness and roads to healing’. Bibliotek for Læger, 2009, vol. 201, p. 432-459. Read the article in danish.


In this article the interpretation of illness and use of personal history is examined among a group of Scandinavian patients with extraordinary medical histories. The study demonstrates that patients, based on their own illness, perform an active memory work linking past, present and future together. They find causes of their illness in their recent and personal past. Existential strains and crises, psychological tendencies, and the ability to handle social demands and challenges, is often thought to create the illness. The study finds a distinct relation between the comprehension of cause and the personal efforts, and it suggests that a modern notion of “sin” is the focal point of this relation. Sin is still considered a cause of illness, but one no longer sins against God or neighbor, rather against oneself. Sin has been secularized and its foundation is no longer collective and religious, but individual and psychological. The road to partial or full recovery is therefore generally tied to the individual’s flexibility and ability to change.

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