Depression and cancer survivorship: importance of coping self-efficacy in post-treatment survivors


Correspondence to: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 641 Lexington Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022, USA. E-mail:



An estimated 30% of cancer patients are expected to experience clinically significant psychological distress during the treatment phase of their disease. Despite significant attention being directed to the mental health needs of individuals undergoing and completing treatment, there is less known about the mental health needs of survivors and the role of potential protective factors in survivorship, such as coping self-efficacy and social support.


One hundred and twenty-four post-treatment cancer survivors (mean age = 62.23 years, women = 70%, average 9.3 years post-treatment) were asked to complete measures of physical symptoms, coping self-efficacy, social support, and depression as part of a national convenience sample of cancer patients and survivors.


About 20% of participants possessed scores on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depressed Mood Scale indicative of clinically relevant depression. Coping self-efficacy was not only a significant predictor of depression (43% Variance Accounted For); it also partially mediated the relationship between symptoms and depression. Social support accounted for limited variance and was not a significant predictor of depression in a model containing both social support and coping self-efficacy as predictors.


A substantial minority of post-treatment survivors reported depression symptomatology. Coping self-efficacy may be an important component of patients' adjustment and possible target for intervention. These results highlight the ongoing mental health and support needs of cancer survivors. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.