Patient Agency: Manifestations of Individual Agency Among People With Health Problems

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This paper conducts a critical review of qualitative studies of the life experiences of people with health problems and proposes the notion of patient agency. It highlights that discontinuous continuity in life is the key category of life experiences around which individuals reveal agency. In particular, the paper first discovers multiple dimensions of life that individuals with illness engage in. It subsequently identifies four different manners in which discontinuous continuity in life is manifested along the multiple dimensions, such as single-dimensional rescaling, multi-dimensional shift, multi-dimensional embedding, and submission. These achievements and the remaining limitations in the medical sociology of patient agency are on a par with those in general sociological theories of individual agency. The paper proposes a set of future research agendas to expand these limits. This theory of patient agency is expected to renew approaches to how people lead their life in illness. It also suggests that patience should be a valid category of agency for general sociological imagination.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar


  • control
  • discontinuous continuity
  • multiplicity
  • patience
  • patient agency
  • submission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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