The benefits of prayer on mood and well-being of breast cancer survivors



Prayer is becoming more widely acknowledged as a way to cope with cancer. The goal of this study was to compare differences in use of prayer between breast cancer survivors from different ethnic groups and examine how use of prayer is related to mood and quality of life.


This study used a mixed methods design. One hundred and seventy-five breast cancer survivors participated in a longitudinal study of survivorship. Women completed in-depth qualitative interviews and a battery of measures including quality of life, spirituality, social support, and mood.


Eighty-one percent of the women prayed. There were no significant differences between the groups for any of the psychological, social support, or quality of life variables with the exception of higher benefit finding and spiritual well-being among those who prayed. The data did show that women who prayed were able to find more positive contributions from their cancer experience than women who did not pray. The interviews showed that those who prayed tended to be African American or Asian, Catholic or Protestant. The prayers were for petitioning, comfort, or praise. Some of the women stated that they had difficulty praying for themselves.


While there seems to be few differences in terms of standardized measures of quality of life, social support, and mood between those who prayed and those who did not, the interviews showed that certain ethnic minority groups seem to find more comfort in prayer, felt closer to God, and felt more compassion and forgiveness than Caucasian women.

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This research was supported by a Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions (RIMI) grant 5 P20 MD000544-02 from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health, to San Francisco State University. The authors would like to acknowledge the help of our research assistants: Yaffa Alter, Heather Law, Erin McCoy, Ana Freire, Mariaelena Gonzalez, Regina Lagman, Mabel Lam, Beverly Lynn, Sann Situ, Chris Van Onselen, Jacqueline Bishop, Shelley Volz, Ivy Wong, Gloria Boehm, Tina Chan, Julie Armin, Ann Gilliard, Qiu Chen, Sachiko Reed, and Laureen Hom.

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Correspondence to Ellen G. Levine.

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Levine, E.G., Aviv, C., Yoo, G. et al. The benefits of prayer on mood and well-being of breast cancer survivors. Support Care Cancer 17, 295 (2009).

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  • Prayer
  • Spirituality
  • Breast cancer
  • Ethnic differences
  • Quality of life
  • Psychological