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Lynne Eldridge MD

Influence of Advanced Cancer Patientís Spirituality on Caregiver Depression

By December 2, 2012

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It's not uncommon for family caregivers of people with cancer to experience depression. Sadly, the well-being of caregivers has long been pushed to the back burner, as attention is focused on the immediate needs of the cancer patient.


Knowing that depression is common, researchers decided to look at the influence of advanced cancer patient's spiritual well-being on caregiver depression.

In the study, 226 people with stage 3 or stage 4 cancers (including lung cancer, GI cancers and GYN cancers) and their caregivers were interviewed. They found that the physical quality of life of patients had a moderate effect on caregiver depression, with poorer quality of life being linked with greater caregiver depression. They also found that patient spiritual well-being played a significant role in mediating this relationship between physical quality of life and caregiver depression.

It's been known for some time that spirituality helps those with cancer cope. These results suggest that spirituality is important for the health of their caregiver as well.

The author's conclusion was that the most important way of addressing depression in caregivers may be attending to the spiritual well-being of the patient.

What is spirituality? For some it is organized religion. For others it is art, or music, or communing with nature. For most, it is a way of giving meaning to life, and feeling a sense of peace with who you are and where you are at this particular moment.

Check out these articles which talk about the role spirituality may play in lung cancer treatment (and even survival) as well as tips on growing your spirituality.

Photo: istockphoto.com


Douglas, S. and B. Daly. The impact of patient quality of life and spirituality upon caregiver depression for those with advanced cancer. Palliative and Supportive Care. 2012. 27:1-8. (Epub ahead of print).

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