A mixed-method approach to study lived experiences of high cholesterol and statin use in Denmark

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As PhD fellow at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, I am taking part in an interdisciplinary research project named LIFESTAT – Living with Statins. The project investigates aspects of cholesterol lowering medications, statins, among the Danish population. Today more than 650,000 Danes are being treated with statins for the purpose of lowering their blood cholesterol hereby decreasing the future risk of cardiovascular disease. At a global level, however, guidelines for the prescription of statins for primary prevention are often clouded in scientific controversy. Not only is hypercholesterolemia a difficult condition to define in etiological terms, but the effects that statins have on the risk of heart disease is not always evident, while the documentation of adverse effects is inadequate. As a scholar in medical anthropology my primary interest lies in the understanding of cholesterol as a cultural phenomenon. With statins as my point of departure I study how contemporary preventive health initiatives has transformed along with new technoscientific innovations, changes in political and financial interests and a shift from focusing on the diseased body to the body at risk (e.g. Rose 2007, Greene 2007). Thus, I ask myself how has high cholesterol as a risk factor gained such an impact in preventive health, while the underlying evidence might not be present? How do people interpret the risk associated with elevated cholesterol and from what is this knowledge of risk constructed? And finally, how does knowledge of risk manifest itself in everyday lives and practices? I aim to answer these questions using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches, thus subscribing to two very different methodologies: Ethnography among statin users and a survey questionnaire assessing attitudes and practices in regard to high cholesterol and statins in the Danish population aged 45-75. The latter being a collaborative with colleagues from public health, general practice and humanities. But how do these different methodologies interfere with my research object - cholesterol and statin use? And how can I use the methods to mediate between the object and its representations? (Mol 2002:155). In my presentation I will tentatively approach some analytical thoughts and paths through my preliminary qualitative and quantitative empirical knowledge, mainly based on the notion of risk. While still in the process of collecting data, both in the field as an ethnographer and behind the desk as a quantitative researcher, I hope to discuss ways of navigating in this parallel research design. Both in means of ontology, as epistemological tensions very clearly express themselves when doing interdisciplinary work, hereby challenging not only the conduct of a homogeneous questionnaire but also my own position in the field. But also when it comes to taking the first steps into considering choices of analysis and ways of presenting my research. Much literature on mixed methods tends to analyse qualitative data in a quantitative manner by summing up and categorizing responses and attitudes (e.g. Teddlie & Tashakkori 2009). However, my approach will be the reverse, as I aim to enrich the ethnographic data with quantitative knowledge. I hereby hope to counteract some of the issues raised in the description of the Panel. Still, however, being aware of (and eager to discuss) other pitfalls along the way.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ID: 128427969