Preoccupation with death as predictor of psychological distress in patients with haematologic malignancies

Authors

  • T.C. VOLLMER phd ,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Applied Psychology in Architecture and Health, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Department of Internal Medicine III, University Hospital Munich-Großhadern, Munich
    Search for more papers by this author
  • M. WITTMANN phd ,

    1. Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany, and Generation Research Program, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich
    Search for more papers by this author
  • C. SCHWEIGER phd ,

    1. Department of Internal Medicine III, University Hospital Munich-Großhadern, Munich
    Search for more papers by this author
  • W. HIDDEMANN md, phd, professor

    1. Department of Internal Medicine III, University Hospital Munich-Großhadern, Munich, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author

Dr Tanja C Vollmer, Institute of Applied Psychology in Architecture and Health, Postbus 6030, 3002 AA Rotterdam, The Netherlands (e-mail: vollmer@iapah.nl).

Abstract

VOLLMER T.C., WITTMANN M., SCHWEIGER C. & HIDDEMANN W. (2011) European Journal of Cancer Care20, 403–411
Preoccupation with death as predictor of psychological distress in patients with haematologic malignancies

The purpose of the present study was to identify preoccupation with death in relation to levels of psychological distress in patients with haematologic malignancies. One hundred and two inpatients with haematologic malignancies, treated with curative intent, and thirty-three control inpatients with benign dysfunction participated in the present study. Psychological distress was measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Freiburg Questionnaire of Coping with Illness. Preoccupation with death was assessed with the Subjective Estimation of Sickness and Death Scale. Patients with haematologic malignancies had significantly more preoccupation with death than the control group. In patients with haematologic malignancies preoccupation with death was related to depressive coping style as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety; regression analyses reveal that the diagnosis of haematologic malignancy leads to stronger subjective feelings of being close to death, which in turn leads to more psychological distress. To the best of our knowledge this is the first study that quantitatively shows the existence of preoccupation with death in patients with haematologic malignancies and its association with psychological distress. Our findings indicate that patients who are treated with a curative regime need psychological intervention focusing on death-related fear in order to prevent severe emotional distress.

Ancillary