07:44pm Monday 01 June 2020

Penn Study: Cardiovascular Patients’ Perspectives On Guilt As A Motivational Tool

Penn researchers interviewed 100 adult cardiology outpatients about the role that guilt plays in their adherence to instructions given by their physicians and as part of their views of their own health. The majority of the patients reported that guilt provides motivation to make lifestyle changes; this finding was associated with having children but no other demographics. When asked whether providers should routinely address guilt with their patients, over half of the patients said yes. Patients with a religious affiliation were more likely to answer that health practitioners should routinely address guilt.

Of the entire sample, 66 percent of patients had experienced a major cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack. Just over 20 percent of these patients reported feelings of guilt related to their health.  However, half of these patients wished they had taken better care of themselves, but had no feelings of guilt relating to their health. The study results were reported at the 2011 American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.

“When counseling cardiovascular patients about lifestyle, practitioners should consider addressing guilt as both a motivation for, and a barrier to, lifestyle change, particularly in patients with religious backgrounds,” concluded senior author James Kirkpatrick, MD, assistant professor of Medicine, Cardiovascular Medicine Division at Penn. “Further research is needed to explore the impact of guilt motivation on patient outcomes.”



Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4 billion enterprise. 

Penn’s School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report‘s survey of research-oriented medical schools and among the top 10 schools for primary care. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $507.6 million awarded in the 2010 fiscal year. 

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; and Pennsylvania Hospital – the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Penn Medicine also includes additional patient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2010, Penn Medicine provided $788 million to benefit our community.

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