Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Gregory C. Petty

Committee Members

Paul C. Erwin, Charles B. Hamilton, Ernest W. Brewer


The purpose of this study was to develop and validate a theoretical model that explains the psychosocial effects of beryllium sensitization (BeS) and chronic beryllium disease (CBD). Sequential, mixed research methods were used. The study population was current and former workers from Department of Energy laboratories and manufacturing facilities who have either BeS or CBD. A theoretical model based on uncertainty in illness and psychosocial adjustment to illness theories was developed. It was hypothesized that uncertainty had a negative effect on health quality of life unless mediated by the ability to make psychosocial adjustments to illness. Qualitative study results supported the proposed model; results from interviews with current and former workers with BeS or CBD indicated that they experienced psychosocial effects consistent with uncertainty in illness and psychosocial adjustment to illness theories. Quantitative study results confirmed the strength and direction of the relationships between the variables adding further validation to the model. Statistical analyses confirmed that uncertainty is an independent variable, health quality of life is a dependent variable, and psychosocial adjustment is an intermediate variable. As uncertainty increases, health quality of life decreases unless the effects are mediated by the ability to make psychosocial adjustments to the illness. A multiple regression model indicated that the domains of psychological distress, social environment and domestic environment were the best predictors of the mental component summary score for the study participants. The results also suggested that BeS may have as much, and possibly more, impact on one’s mental health than CBD. It was concluded that the theoretical model explaining the psychosocial effects of BeS and CBD has validity. This adds an important new component to the spectrum of CBD – a component that has implications for treatment as well as workers compensation. Healthcare providers and support groups should develop programs focused on helping patients develop coping skills to manage the psychological and social stress of BeS and CBD.

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