Spiritual Wellbeing provides better Quality of Life to Cancer Patients

Autumn 2016, Living Well Magazine

An Australian study on 490 oncology patients found that spirituality has a significant, positive connection to quality of life and the fighting spirit of people with cancer.

Spiritual wellbeing also has a significantly low association with feelings of hopelessness and anxious preoccupation, further contributing to a better quality of life.

The study assessed patients with mixed diagnoses via response to two scales: the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy–Spiritual Well-Being (FACIT-Sp) and the Mental Adjustment to Cancer (MAC) scale.

The researchers – Whitford, Olver and Peterson – noted that even beyond the core factors of physical, social/family and emotional wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing is a significant and distinctly unique contributor to quality of life.

However, inconsistent with other findings, high levels of meaning/peace or faith did not significantly impact patients’ ability to enjoy life despite chronic symptoms of pain or fatigue.

Cancer, given its propensity to bring up an individual’s sense of mortality, can bring spiritual issues to the fore. What is my faith? How does it help me cope at this time? What values does it give me? What does it tell me about my priorities now? Is there life after death? What is this experience teaching me on a spiritual level?

While cancer patients obviously have different religious beliefs or spiritual practices, the assessments measured the importance in people’s lives of their spirituality and how it made them feel while coping with serious illness. Referred to as ‘spiritual coping’, high levels clearly assist cancer patients to experience a better quality of life while dealing with the cancer.

According to the conclusion of the research, “Results lend further support to the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model. By failing to assess spiritual wellbeing, the ‘true’ burden of cancer is likely to be miscalculated.”

While there was found to be no impact on pain and fatigue experienced, through the rallying of the fighting spirit, the value of spirituality in the lives of cancer patients is both positive and meaningful.

Reference:

Whitford HS, Olver IN, Peterson MJ. Spirituality as a core domain in the assessment of quality of life in oncology. Psychooncology. 2008 Nov;17(11):1121-8.