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Post-traumatic growth and life threatening physical illness: a systematic review of the qualitative literature

Hefferon, K. and Grealy, M.A. and Mutrie, N. (2009) Post-traumatic growth and life threatening physical illness: a systematic review of the qualitative literature. British Journal of Health Psychology, 14 (2). pp. 343-378. ISSN 1359-107X

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Abstract

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is the phenomenon of positive change through the experience of trauma and adversity (O'Leary & Ickovics, 1995). Research suggests that the type of trauma sustained could have differing processes and outcomes from each other (Demark-wahnefried et al., 2000; Sabiston, McDonough, and Crocker, 2007). The aim of this study was to synthesize qualitative data on PTG and illness related trauma. Fifty-seven published journal articles dating from before November 1st, 2007 in PsychINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Knowledge and from the authors own knowledge of the area were reviewed. Key words included PTG; benefit finding; thriving and positive changes. Key themes included: 'reappraisal of life and priorities'; 'trauma equals development of self'; 'existential re-evaluation'; and 'a new awareness of the body'. Findings suggest that there are unique elements to illness related PTG and a need for additional research into the processes and outcomes of physical illness related trauma.