Health Perceptions and Behavior Changes in Survivors of the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

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Purpose. Improvements in the management of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have led to an increasing number of survivors who experience chronic adverse effects. Whether these survivors’ subsequent health perceptions and behaviors change after ARDS is unknown and was the focus of our study. Methods. A sequential mixed-methods study was conducted to examine changes in health perceptions and behaviors in ARDS survivors. Respondents were registrants at the ARDS Foundation, a nonprofit patient support and education organization. Data were based on subjects’ recall of their illness and behavior. Results. Findings from interviews conducted with ARDS survivors during the initial qualitative phase were used to construct a quantitative survey instrument, which was completed by 229/513 (45%) registrants. Changes were reported in the following behaviors before and after ARDS: diet (34% and 31% consumed more fruits and vegetables, respectively, now than before ARDS, whereas 4% and 6%, respectively, said they consume less); physical activity (64% exercise now vs 50% before, P < .01); alcohol use (2.3 ± 7.6 drinks/week now vs 4.2 ± 10.6 before; P < .001); and medical care needs (10.6 ± 15.5 doctor visits now vs 3.7 ± 6.8 before, P < .001). Conclusions. ARDS survivors reported mostly positive health perception and behavior changes after their illness. However, the specific population represented and the subjective nature of the study methodology may limit the generalizability of our findings and warrants further study of a broader population.