Self-care research: How to grow the evidence base?

T. Jaarsma, A. Strömberg, S. B. Dunbar, D. Fitzsimons, C. Lee, S. Middleton, E. Vellone, K. E. Freedland, B. Riegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background and objective: The number of studies in the area of self-care is growing and international researchers are increasingly developing self-care interventions to improve outcomes of individual patients and communities. However, growth of the evidence is still slow due to challenges with designing and testing self-care interventions. In this article we address major methodological challenges with regard to the definition of self-care, use of theory, and research design, intended to provide guidance to researchers in this field. Method: During the inaugural conference of the International Center for Self-Care Research held in Rome, Italy in June 2019 we identified important issues in existing self-care research. Discussion and literature review lead to eight recommendation for future self-care research. Results: In preparation, begin with a theoretically sound definition of self-care. In planning the intervention, build on and extend previous studies. Use theory to develop self-care interventions and consider translational models to guide development, evaluation and implementation of complex self-care interventions. Employ a study design that fits the current phase and objectives of the research and measure self-care and related factors carefully. In reporting, describe the sample and setting sufficiently so that others can draw conclusions about generalizability and applicability to their practice and patient population. In interpretation, describe how the intervention is assumed to work (causal assumptions) and its key components. Conclusion: Our review of existing self-care research clearly illustrates that the recommendations we provide are needed if we are to substantially grow the evidence base supporting self-care. Embracing a core set of principles will allow us to build on each other's work. Tweetable abstract: A core set of methodological principles is needed to substantially grow the evidence base supporting self-care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103555
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Complex interventions
  • Definitions
  • Evidence based
  • Measurement
  • Research designs
  • Research setting
  • Self-care
  • Theory


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