Sense of coherence and distress in cancer patients and their partners

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Abstract

Strong sense of coherence (SOC) is assumed to promote and protect health in stressful situations, such as a serious illness. There is, however, surprisingly little research-based discussion on the SOC–distress association in cancer patients and especially in their partners. The aim of this study was to clarify these issues.

The associations between SOC, depression, and anxiety were studied in 123 cancer couples. Data were collected with self-report questionnaires at the time of diagnosis, 8 and 14 months later. The predictors of follow-up distress and possible mediators of the cross-lagged longitudinal data were analysed with SEM.

No gender differences in the patients' study variables were found, but the female partners displayed more distress symptoms than their male counterparts. The results supported the SOC theory. Strong SOC alleviated the development of distress. In addition, patient SOC tended to strengthen during the follow-up. No direct crossover between baseline SOC and follow-up distress was found. However, all patient and partner variables at the 14-month follow-up were related to each other, but not at baseline. This could indicate a gradual crossover process of the shared experience. Special attention in clinical practice should be given to the psychological well-being of cancer patients' partners, especially female partners. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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