, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 322-333

The role of religious values in coping with cancer

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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.

The work reported here was presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree in Psychology, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, by the first author under the direction of the second and third authors. An abridged version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. Washington, D. C., August 25, 1982. Special thanks to Roger Bakeman, Ph.D., for his helpful suggestions.