A qualitative study of younger men's experience of heart attack (myocardial infarction).

01 Sep 2017
Merritt CJ, de Zoysa N, Hutton JM


The effects of heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), across psychosocial domains may be particularly acute in younger adults, for whom serious health events are non-normative. MI morbidity is declining in Western countries, but in England MI numbers have plateaued for the under-45 cohort, where approximately 90% of patients are male. Qualitative research on younger adults' experience of MI is limited, and no study has sampled exclusively under-45s. This study aimed to understand how a sample of men under 45 adjusted to and made sense of MI.


Qualitative research design based on semi-structured in-depth interviews.


Ten men aged under 45 who had experienced MI in the past 3-6 months were purposively recruited and interviewed. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.


Seven superordinate themes were identified. This article focuses in depth on the three most original themes: (1) 'I'm less of a man', which described experiences of losing 'maleness' (strength, independence, ability to provide) post-MI; (2) 'Shortened horizons', which covered participants' sense of foreshortened future and consequent reprioritization; and (3) 'Life loses its colour', describing the loss of pleasure from lifestyle-related changes.


Themes broadly overlapped with the qualitative literature on younger adult MI. However, some themes (e.g., loss of 'maleness' post-MI, and ambivalence towards MI risk factors) appeared unique to this study. Themes were also discussed in relation to risk factors for anxiety and depression and how this might inform clinical care for a younger, male population. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Myocardial infarction (MI) morbidity is not declining in England for under-45s. Adjustment to MI is particularly challenging for younger adults, perhaps because it is non-normative. However, little is known about the experience of MI in younger adults. What does this study add? This is the first qualitative study to sample MI patients exclusively under 45, thereby mapping to epidemiological trends. Further support is provided for some themes identified in the existing young adult MI literature. New themes are identified here which can provide insights relevant to clinical care in this population.