2019 Invitational Conference Summary
Self-care research: Where are we now? Where are we going?
Report from the Inaugural conference of the International Center for Self-Care Research held in Rome, Italy in June 2019
At this inaugural conference we discussed the current state of self-care research and proposed an agenda for future research. A full report of that discussion will be published, but this brief summary provides a focused overview of those discussions. We identified seven major reasons why self-care is challenging, which can be grouped into the general categories of behavior change (e.g. habits) and illness–related factors that make self-care exceedingly difficult – multimorbidity, symptoms, and stressful life events. We identified six specific knowledge gaps that, if addressed, may help to address these challenges. These knowledge gaps are briefly described below.
Influence of Habit Formation on Self-Care Behavior Change
Different factors influence lifestyle behaviors differ across the lifespan. Many unhealthy behaviors, such as food choices, are learned early in life and these habits are hard to change. Lack of motivation to change is powerful, but only one of many factors influencing behavior change. Further, even after a healthy behavior is adopted, it is challenging to maintain the behavior over time.
Implications for self-care research. Some promising interventions to promote behavioral change include education, persuasion, incentivizing through behavioral economics, training, enablement, modelling, restrictions and environmental restructuring. Opportunities for health education and implementation of proven self-care interventions are often missed by busy clinicians. One important line of research is the development and testing of intervention approaches that address habits with stable, cue-based routines with potential for lasting behavior change. Information and Communication Technology may support and empower behavior change.
Resilience in the Face of Stressful Life Events and Social Contexts that Interfere with Self-Care
Resilience is the ability to adapt, to recover, to “bounce back” from difficult experiences. Resilience helps people adapt well when life events such as trauma, tragedy, and adverse situations interfere with self-care.
Implications for self-care research. We know little about how resilience influences self-care in ill populations. More research is needed to identify ways to develop and nurture resilience in future self-care interventions.
Culture and Self-Care
Every country has its own cultural characteristics, ideas, customs, and social behaviors. This applies as much to self-care beliefs and practices as to other aspect of life. Although the broad elements of self-care (e.g., physical activity, good hygiene) are universal, the particularities differ.
Implications for self-care research. The deep cultural differences between countries illustrate the need for research examining the influences of culture on self-care.
Difficulty Performing Self-Care with Multiple Chronic Conditions
For those who have developed a chronic condition, additional conditions add challenges and persons with multimorbidity are particularly burdened in terms of self-care. Specific challenges for those with multimorbidity include poor access to healthcare, care fragmentation,