How real patients with severe asthma experience their disease: An ethnographic study

Cómo pacientes reales con asma severo experimentan su enfermedad: estudio etnográfico


To explore and understand the experiences of the patients with severe asthma throughout their patient journey.


Qualitative ethnographic study based on an ethnographic approach.


Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid.

Participants and context

Ten adult (>18 years) persons (six females and four males) diagnosed with severe asthma were selected from public healthcare settings by purposive sampling.


Semi-structured in-depth interviews performed by an expert anthropologist in the patients’ homes. Data was collected using a video and audio recorder and analyzed by three researchers using the sense-making methodology.


Life experiences were classified into four main areas: life experiences throughout the patient journey, attitudes towards the disease and healthcare professionals, unmet needs regarding knowledge and self-management, and relationship with doctors and healthcare providers. Within each area, several topics and subtopics emerged, allowing to distinguish three initial phases of the disease and three attitudinal profiles.


During the initial phases of severe asthma, participants underestimated its severity and symptoms, resulting in disease denial and passivity. Participants associated disease severity with chronicity, which was internalized years after its diagnosis, delaying patients’ adaptation to the disease and their ability of to self-manage it. Participants noticed gaps in health-related information and communication and needed a comprehensive understanding of their disease from the beginning.

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