The impact of invisible illness on identity and contextual age across the life span

Amanda L. Kundrat, Jon F. Nussbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study explored the impact invisible illness has on identity, specifically contextual age, throughout the life span. It was grounded in the assumption that an individual's identity is formed through communicative interaction. Using social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) as a framework, individuals' identities after disclosure of invisible illness were explored. Rubin and Rubin's (1986) Contextual Age Questionnaire was used to determine self-perceived as well as other-perceived contextual age. Invisibly ill individuals reported significantly "higher" contextual age scores than did same chronologically aged, matched non-ill individuals. In addition, the friends of invisibly ill individuals reported "higher" contextual age scores for the invisibly ill individuals than the self-reported scores of the same chronologically aged non-ill individuals. Interviews further revealed that illness instilled insight and that disclosure of illness provoked comments from others that led invisibly ill individuals to identify with older individuals. Future directions and limitations of this study are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-347
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


Dive into the research topics of 'The impact of invisible illness on identity and contextual age across the life span'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this