The Role of Gratitude in Breast Cancer: Its Relationships with Post-traumatic Growth, Psychological Well-Being and Distress

Abstract

Despite the increasing number of studies documenting the positive effects of gratitude in coping with traumatic events and facilitating psychological well-being, none is addressed to patients with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. The aims of this study are to examine the role of gratitude in a breast cancer sample and its correlations with post-traumatic growth, psychological well-being, and distress; and to compare patients reporting higher levels of gratitude (High Gratitude Individuals, HGI) versus those reporting lower levels (Low Gratitude Individuals, LGI). 67 breast cancer patients were assessed with: (1) Gratitude Questionnaire; (2) Post-traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI); (3) Psychological Well-being Scales (PWBS) (4) Symptom Questionnaires (SQ); and were divided into: (1) High Gratitude Individuals—HGI (n = 27); (2) Low Gratitude Individuals—LGI (n = 40). Bivariate correlations between questionnaires and ANOVA between-group were calculated. Gratitude was significantly and positively correlated to all of PTGI scales, to PWBS positive relations, to SQ relaxation and contentment, and negatively related to anxiety, depression, and hostility-irritability. HGI and LGI reported significant differences on the PTGI and SQ dimensions, but not on PWB scales, with HGI displaying higher levels of PTGI, positive affect and lower symptomatology. Also in breast cancer patients gratitude is strongly associated to post-traumatic growth, reduced distress and increased positive emotions, but surprisingly not to psychological well-being. Since the majority of patients reported low gratitude levels, the results suggest the importance of developing interventions to clinically increase them also in oncology.

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Acknowledgments

The Authors thank Dr Graziella Strappato and the Breast Cancer Centre medical team of S. Croce Hospital in Loreto (Italy) for their volunteer collaboration to this study.

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Correspondence to Chiara Ruini.

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Ruini, C., Vescovelli, F. The Role of Gratitude in Breast Cancer: Its Relationships with Post-traumatic Growth, Psychological Well-Being and Distress. J Happiness Stud 14, 263–274 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9330-x

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Keywords

  • Breast cancer
  • Depression
  • Gratitude
  • Post-traumatic growth
  • Psychological well-being