The Use of Support Groups to Increase Treatment Adherence Among Older Adults

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Eric R. Dahlen

Advisor Department



The misuse of prescription medication costs America between $30.1 and $136.8 billion dollars each year through sickness, hospitalization, and death (Johnson, Williams, & Marshall, 1999). Despite the efforts of many researchers to address the issue of non-adherence, few validated solutions have been developed. The current study assessed elderly patients' adherence rates following a 5-week support group. Pre-existing patterns of non-adherence were assessed, and 30 male participants were assigned to 1 of 2 conditions. In the experimental condition, patients were required to monitor their pill count on a weekly basis, to develop strategies to improve their own adherence behaviors, and to attend weekly meetings addressing adherence issues. The control condition consisted of 10 members who were part of an attention control group. All members of both conditions completed the Seniors' Lifestyle Inventory, the Symptom Checklist 90-R, and a self-report of their adherence behavior over the 5 week study. It was hypothesized that after five weeks of group meetings, members of the experimental condition would demonstrate higher pharmacological adherence and lower scores on the SLI and the SCL-90-R than members of the control condition. While no statistical significance was obtained for the research hypotheses, results do suggest some promise for the use of adherence support groups as a means of improving treatment adherence, as there was a significant treatment effect for the experimental group. Recommendations for future research in this area are provided, including the use of measures developed for medical patients, using no-treatment control groups, and screening for adherence levels prior to implementing treatments.