A thematic study of the role of social support in the body image of burn survivors

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Kellie Hodder
Anna Chur-Hansen *
Andrea Parker
(*) Corresponding Author:
Anna Chur-Hansen | anna.churhansen@adelaide.edu.au

Abstract

There is evidence that social support is important for the development and mainte- nance of body image satisfaction for people who have sustained burn injuries. This qualitative study explored the specific mechanisms by which social support impacts the body image satisfaction of burn survivors, drawing on nine participants’ in depth accounts. Participants were recruited through a burns unit at a public hospital in South Australia. Interviews were conducted with nine female burn survivors aged between 24 and 65 (mean age 44.6). Participants described their perceptions about their appearance post burn and their social support experiences. Four themes were identified: acceptance, social comparison, talking about appearance concerns, and the gaze of others. Results indicate that for these participants, social support was an important factor in coming to terms with changes in appearance, specifically support that helps to minimise feelings of difference. Unhelpful aspects of social support were also identified included feeling that suffering was being dismissed and resenting the perceived expectation from supports to be positive. Social supports are important to consider in relation to body image for those working with people who have survived burn injuries.

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