TORONTO — Among patients with cancer, having a high sense of spirituality and/or religiosity increased mental health quality of life, according to data presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.
“A diagnosis of cancer is life changing and prompts patients to ask questions to increase an understanding of not only the medical aspects of their illness, but also an understanding of the broader implications cancer imposes on their life moving forward,” Anthony J. Cannon, MD, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said during his presentation. “The prospect of an uncertain future can provoke distress, which can manifest clinically as panic, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. This distress understandably exerts an adverse effect on both the physical and mental quality of life.”
Spirituality and religiosity have been shown to be independently associated with physical and mental quality of life, according to Cannon. However, medical teams pay little attention is paid to spiritual or religious needs of patients.
To assess the effects of spirituality and religiosity independently and together, Cannon and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study of patients aged 19 years or older who received treatment for various malignancies between March 2006 and July 2008. Quality of life was determined via SF-12 patient questionnaires at baseline, 6 months and 12 months.
Forty-five percent of the study cohort were considered to have high spirituality and high religiosity, 36% had low spirituality and high religiosity, 14% had low spirituality and low religiosity and 6% had high spirituality and low religiosity.
Patients who lived in rural areas were more likely to be spiritual and/or religious vs. patients from urban areas.
Patients who received more complex treatment for their cancer were more likely to be spiritual and/or religious compared with patients who received only chemotherapy.
Researchers found that patients with high religiosity and high spirituality had better physical health overall and significantly higher mental health composite scores (P < .0001) compared with low spiritual and low religious patients.
Patients with high spirituality and low religiosity had higher mental health scores vs. those with low spirituality and low religiosity (P < .0001).
Mental health scores of patients with high spirituality and low religiosity were slightly higher vs. patients with high spirituality and high religiosity (P = .17), suggesting that among patients who are highly spiritual, the level of religiosity is not significant.
Regardless of the level of religiosity, patients who had high spirituality tended to have better mental quality of life, according to Cannon.
“The findings of this study illustrate that health care providers are in a unique position to not only address cancer as an illness but also address the existential question imposed by cancers, thereby helping patients lead more rich and fulfilling lives despite a difficult medical diagnosis and prognosis,” Cannon concluded. – by Amanda Oldt
Cannon AJ, et al. P5-066. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 16-20, 2015; Toronto.
Disclosure: Cannon reports no relevant financial disclosures.