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What Makes Some Diseases More Typical than Others? A Survey on the Impact of Disease Characteristics and Professional Background on Disease Typicality

Hofstad, T., Hampton, J. A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0363-8232 & Hofmann, B. (2020). What Makes Some Diseases More Typical than Others? A Survey on the Impact of Disease Characteristics and Professional Background on Disease Typicality. INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing, 57, pp. 1-9. doi: 10.1177/0046958020972813


Health professionals tend to perceive some diseases as more typical than others. If disease typicalities have implications for health professionals or health policy makers’ handling of different diseases, then it is of great social, epistemic, and ethical interest. Accordingly, it is important to find out what makes health professionals rank diseases as more or less typical. This study investigates the impact of various factors on how typical various diseases are perceived to be by health professionals. In particular, we study the influence of broad disease categories, such as somatic versus psychological/behavioral conditions, and a wide range of more specific disease characteristics, as well as the health professional’s own background. We find that professional background strongly impacted disease typicality. All professionals (MD, RN, physiotherapists and psychologists) considered somatic conditions to be more typical than psychological/behavioral. As expected, psychologists also found psychological/behavioral conditions to be more typical than did other groups. Professions of respondents could be well predicted from their individual typicality judgments, with the exception of physiotherapists and nurses who had very similar judgment profiles. We also demonstrate how various disease characteristics impact typicality for the different professionals. Typicality showed moderate to strong positive correlations with condition severity and mortality, and only non-severe conditions were rated as atypical. Hence, studying how different disease characteristics and occupational background influences health professionals’ perception of disease typicality is the first and important step toward a more general study of how typicality influences disease handling.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Publisher Keywords: disease, typical, severity, profession, health policy, ethics, disease characteristics, judgment, respondents, survey
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR180 Immunology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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