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Int J Behav Med. 2004;11(1):48-55.

The role of spirituality in the psychological adjustment to cancer: a test of the transactional model of stress and coping.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Finch University of Health Sciences, Chicago Medical School, 3333 Green Bay Road, North Chicago, Illinois 60064, USA.


Recent studies in the oncology literature have shown that spirituality, defined as the combination of existential and religious well-being (RWB), is related to both emotional well-being and quality of life. Indeed, spirituality may be particularly important in coping with the potential life threat of the disease. Based on Frankl's (1963) existential theory, in this study, we examined whether the relations between spirituality and emotional well-being are moderated by degree of perceived life threat (PLT). In addition, in this study, we examined the relative importance of religious versus existential well-being in relation to psychological adjustment. Patients diagnosed with various types of cancer (N = 95) completed questionnaires assessing spirituality, PLT, quality of life, and distress. Contrary to theoretical predictions, spirituality was associated with less distress and better quality of life regardless of PLT. Interestingly, existential but not RWB accounted for a major portion of the variance in these outcomes. Taken together, these findings suggest that spirituality, particularly the existential component, may be associated with reduced symptoms of distress in cancer patients regardless of life threat.

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