Self-efficacy has been associated with health outcomes for women with disabilities.
Self-efficacy involves our confidence in our ability to achieve desired goals. In other words, we tend to choose to do things that we believe we can do. If we believe we can stop smoking, chances are pretty good that we will succeed when compared to our chances if we do not possess such confidence. High self-efficacy can be important for our health and well-being.
Positive changes in self-efficacy have resulted in improvements in self-reported health, including pain and disability, in samples of mostly women with disabilities. In studies of mostly women with disabilities, those who were more confident in their ability to exercise actually participated in more exercise than those with lower self-efficacy. However, at least one study found that self-efficacy was not enough for those with severe limitations and pain (i.e., rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis). They were not as likely to exercise as others with less severe limitation and pain.
Several group intervention studies on the health of women with disabilities include structured exercises to raise self-efficacy and competence in achieving goals. Groups of women participating in the interventions showed improvements in self-efficacy compared to groups who did not participate in the interventions.
- One pilot study resulted in improvements in self-efficacy for healthy dietary behaviors.
- Another program for women with rheumatoid arthritis showed improvements in self-efficacy for managing pain and other disease-related symptoms. Greater efficacy for coping was related to less psychological distress.
- A year-long study of mostly women with rheumatoid arthritis found that the participants who believed they had the ability to personally accomplish things they wanted to do tended to have greater life satisfaction and less depression.
Various instruments have been developed to measure self-efficacy for managing specific disabling conditions, such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Appropriate measures of self-efficacy regarding the self-management of the effects of disability specific to a cross-disability sample of women have not been developed. The Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale, which measures one's confidence in coping with a range of demanding situations, has been widely used in studies comprised of women, or mostly women, with disabilities. This scale has been used successfully to measure changes in participants' confidence in their coping abilities over time.
For women with disabilities, relational efficacy may be as relevant, or even more relevant, than self-efficacy. The feminist perspective offers relational efficacy as a move away from the linear, control and mastery, sense of self to a more mutually connected type of efficacy. To date, no research has been conducted on this question.