Delaying and seeking care for obstructive sleep apnea: The role of gender, family, and morality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social scientists have proposed various theories as to when, why, and how people come to seek medical care for multiple conditions. Yet, there is still little empirical research to illustrate the pathways into and out of care, especially for chronic illness. This article contributes to this body of work by exploring individuals’ reasons for delaying and seeking care for obstructive sleep apnea, which despite being the most diagnosed sleep disorder, has been largely neglected by social scientists. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with 65 Jewish-Israeli obstructive sleep apnea patients, this study shows how intersections of gender, family, and morality shape and are shaped by care-seeking behavior. The analysis reveals that married men claim they do not do health, thereby reaffirming their masculinity, but they maintain moral status because their wives do much of their illness work for them. Unmarried men, however, claim to be more vigilant in their pursuit of health and present it as one of their responsibilities. Women acknowledge they have the double burden of protecting their own health as well as that of their loved ones, and often feel that they are incapable of meeting these social expectations. However, men and women are able to maintain moral status by explaining their neglect of health as resulting from their attempts to care for significant others. Finally, married women differ from men and unmarried women in their motivations for seeking care. In keeping with their gender roles, married women emphasize disturbance to others whereas men stress disturbance to self.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-53
Number of pages18
JournalHealth (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • care seeking
  • family health
  • gender
  • qualitative research methods
  • utilization of health services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)


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