Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 322-333

First online:

The role of religious values in coping with cancer

  • Marvin W. AcklinAffiliated withGeorgia State University
  • , Earl C. BrownAffiliated withGeorgia State University
  • , Paul A. MaugerAffiliated withGeorgia State University

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The relationship between transcendent meaning attribution, religious orientation, and psychological well-being was studied in cancer and noncancer patients to test the hypotheses that intrinsic religious values and life meaning enhance coping and well-being during the course of the life-threatening illness. Subjects were 44 patients receiving medical treatment for cancer and noncancer medical conditions. In the cancer group, higher levels of attributed life meaning were positively linked with intrinsic religious orientation, and associated with lower levels of despiar, anger-hostility, and social isolation. Cancer patients scored higher than noncancer patients on depersonalization, suggesting the presence of psychic numbing in response to their illness. Noncancer group results were characterized by positive correlations between the two groups in coping styles and salience of life meaning attribution. A rationale for the observed differences in coping styles between the two groups is presented, highlighting perceived life threat as a key differentiating variable.