Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 21–43 | Cite as

Chronic Illness Self-care and the Family Lives of Older Adults: A Synthetic Review Across Four Ethnic Groups

  • Mary P. Gallant
  • Glenna Spitze
  • Joshua G. Grove
Original Article


The purpose of this paper is to integrate the literature on family and social ties among older ethnic minority men and women with the literature on chronic illness self-care among elders in these groups, in order to increase understanding of social influences on self-care behavior, raise questions for future research, and inform culturally appropriate interventions to maximize the health-promoting potential of social relationships. The paper presents demographic and chronic illness prevalence information, and then summarizes literature about patterns of chronic illness self-care behaviors for older African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and American Indians in the U.S. For each group, the sociological literature about residential, cultural, and socioeconomic patterns, family lives, and other social ties is then reviewed, and the self-care literature that has accounted for these patterns is discussed. Finally, six themes are outlined and related questions are identified to further illuminate the social context of older adults’ chronic illness self-care.


Chronic illness Ethnic minorities Family Older adults Self-care Social ties 



This research was supported in part by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health (grant number R24MD001120). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities or the National Institutes of Health. The authors would like to thank Nakeshia Knight and Jennifer Kahn for their assistance with the preparation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary P. Gallant
    • 1
    • 3
  • Glenna Spitze
    • 2
  • Joshua G. Grove
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Health Policy, Management, & BehaviorUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Policy, Management, & Behavior, School of Public HealthUniversity at AlbanyRensselaerUSA

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