International Center For

Self Care Research

Why Is Self Care Important?


People with chronic conditions must be actively involved in self-care. Of 8,760 hours in a year, only about 10 hours or 0.001% are spent with healthcare professionals. All other health maintenance, monitoring and management activities are done by individuals and their families as self-care activities. Performing self-care will improve well-being, decrease morbidity and mortality, and reduce healthcare costs.

Research has revealed the complexity of self-care. A wide variety of factors influence the decisions that people make about self-care. Significant knowledge gaps remain on how to influence those decisions in a manner that supports self-care. Our knowledge of the effects of self-care on outcomes is relatively undeveloped.

Conferences and Activities

In June 2019 we held our first Invitational Conference at Australian Catholic University in Rome, Italy.

Our 2020 Invitational Conference was held virtually.

The Self-Care course at Linkoping University is scheduled for 7-18 September, 2020


Our Mission

The vision of this Center is a world where self-care is prioritized by individuals, families, and communities and is the first line of approach in every health care encounter.

The mission of the Center is to lead the self-care research endeavor, improving conceptual clarity and promoting interdisciplinary work informed by a shared vision.

Current Challenges and Opportunities

Coordinate Isolated Activities

Many people across the world are studying self-care and we anticipate that this research will continue. However, enthusiasm for self-care research is now so robust that it is becoming fragmented. Isolated research groups may waste time and effort in creating something that already exists. Repeating studies in specific countries or specific patient groups may waste energies that would be better used to contribute to an international and multicultural body of knowledge. 

Deepen Understanding

We need to deepen our theoretical understanding of the mechanisms underlying self-care behaviors. Without depth in understanding why, when, and how our interventions work, interventions may reflect guesswork. With a deeper understanding of barriers and facilitators of self-care we can develop and test promising interventions, improve our theoretical thinking, and formulate new hypotheses. Collaborating will deepen our understanding of self-care.

Promote Continuity

Currently researchers working worldwide are developing the field of self-care research. Their work may be temporarily funded but when funds run out, their work often ceases. This situation has resulted in a paucity of advanced projects answering the critical questions in the field. Possibilities to merge research resources in this Center can promote better continuity through a joint research agenda and organizing of international studies.

Philosophical Underpinnings 

Our focus is theory-driven research. In the Middle Range Theory of Self-Care of Chronic Illness developed by Riegel, Jaarsma, and Strömberg, self-care is defined as a process of maintaining health through health promoting practices and managing illness. Self-care is performed in both healthy and ill states. Everyone engages in some level of self-care daily with tooth brushing, food choices, and so forth. When an ill individual is stable, he or she is often able to maintain health without moving into illness management. But, once illness management becomes a priority, behaviors addressing health maintenance remain. Thus, self-care in healthy and ill states can be, but is not always, a simultaneous process.

Self-care might be more salient to those with a chronic illness. In such situations, self-care often requires a set of behaviors to control the disease, decrease the burden of symptoms, and improve survival. Sometimes self-care involves health promotion behaviors such as a healthy diet, exercise, and social support. In other situations, self-care involves monitoring of signs and symptoms and initiating treatments when changes are recognized.

We define self-care as involving self-care maintenance (e.g. taking medication as prescribed), self-care monitoring (e.g. routinely monitoring symptoms), and self-care management (e.g. adjusting diet or medication based on detection and interpretation of symptoms). We recently updated the theory by integrating symptoms. With this addition, we clarified the important contribution of symptoms to each of these three processes.

The decisions made by people regarding self-care are influenced by a broad array of factors. Effective self-care requires knowledge, skills, confidence and motivation to engage in self-care in spite of everyday barriers. Common barriers to self-care include depression, lack of confidence, trouble thinking, poor sleep, and other illnesses. Informal supporters or caregivers, typically family members, exert a powerful influence on self-care. Lack of support is an important barrier to self-care. 

Self-care is relevant for all chronic conditions and throughout the entire trajectory from prevention to palliative care.  We have learned that those who report more effective self-care have better quality of life, are admitted less frequently to a hospital, and live longer than those who report poor self-care. In spite of these studies, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms by which self-care exerts benefit. And, research in varied illness populations, especially those with multiple chronic conditions, is essential.


Why Us?

We bring a unique perspective to existing self-care centers. Existing centers emphasize a medical model (i.e. disease focus) or a community perspective addressing the promotion of self-care behavior in regions and countries across the world. Our focus is theory-driven research.

Co-Directors of the Center are Professors Riegel and Jaarsma, experts recognized worldwide as leaders in the study of self-care. Individually and together they have published more than 200 articles on the topic of self-care.

Coordinating Council members are Professors Anna Stromberg (Sweden) and Ercole Vellone (Italy). Both have a deep understanding of theories of self-care and extensive research experience in self-care. 

Barbara Riegel

Barbara Riegel


Anna Stromberg

Anna Stromberg


Tiny Jaarsma

Tiny Jaarsma


Ercole Vellone

Ercole Vellone


Institutional Sponsor

The International Center For Self Care Research is generously supported by the Australian Catholic University. Professors Riegel and Jaarsma are Professorial Fellows affiliated with Australian Catholic University (ACU). ACU provides funding for the International Center for Self Care Research.

How Can I Collaborate with the International Center for Self-Care Research?

Research focused on supporting and empowering persons with chronic illness to perform self-care maintenance, monitoring and management has great potential for improving outcomes in a wide variety of illnesses and cultural groups worldwide. With support from Australian Catholic University (ACU), we are planning to compare and contrast different approaches to improving self-care maintenance, monitoring, and management. We see immense potential to knowledge development with the inclusion of new collaborators and projects.

Want To Get Involved?

Whether you have a question or are interested in becoming an involved investigator, please fill out the following form with your inquiry and someone from the Center will contact you shortly.