Rheumatoid Arthritis, Men and Physical Activity: A Qualitative Study
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic illness that often threatens men’s physical functioning and masculine identities. The main symptoms of RA are joint pain, fatigue and reduced physical mobility. Little is known about the personal accounts of men living with RA and how masculine identities may contribute to their conceptualisation of physical activity. This study focused on four men with RA from an urban area of New Zealand. A go-along interview was carried out where participants were physically active in their home or workplace. The aim of this study was to explore the participants’ lived experience of RA and physical activity. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was employed and three themes about masculinities were extracted around a central theme that “men don’t show weakness”, which captures how the men described daily experiences that minimised the visibility and intrusiveness of RA on their physical activity and general functioning. “The resilient self” captured the men’s desire to be strong, determined, and not to admit defeat. “Control of self and environment” revealed the men’s desire to control how they talked about RA, and how and when they participated in activity. They controlled things for the purpose of appearing strong, independent and powerful. “Minimising the significance of RA” captured the way the men all described their lived experiences in ways that actively minimised the significance of RA in their physical functioning in their lives. This approach served to protect their masculine identities by avoiding feeling inadequate or being labelled as weak. These findings demonstrate the relevance of masculinity and illness representations and are discussed in reference to core theories of these concepts. Understanding that men with RA will incorporate health behaviours in ways to uphold their notions of masculinity is important when planning ways to advise men with RA about maintaining physical activity.
Advisor: Treharne, Gareth
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Men; Physical activity; Qualitative study; Rheumatoid arthritis
Research Type: Thesis