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Type of social support matters for prediction of posttraumatic growth among cancer survivors.

journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2010 by Maya J Schroevers, Vicki Helgeson, Robbert Sanderman, Adelita V Ranchor

OBJECTIVE: Previous research in people with cancer on social support and psychological well-being has mainly focused on the short-term negative outcomes of adjustment. Little is known about the role of social support in the experience of positive outcomes in the long term. This study examined the relation between emotional support in the period following diagnosis and the experience of positive consequences of the illness, so called posttraumatic growth, at 8 years after diagnosis. We focused on three distinct types of emotional support: perceived availability, actual received, and dissatisfaction with received emotional support.

METHODS: This longitudinal study was conducted in a sample of 206 long-term cancer survivors. Social support was assessed with the Social Support List (SSL) at 3 months and 8 years after diagnosis. Positive consequences of the illness were assessed with the Silver Lining Questionnaire (SLQ) at 8 years after diagnosis. Correlation- and regression analyses were used to examine the associations of initial levels of emotional support with the long-term report of posttraumatic growth.

RESULTS: Regression analyses showed that more received emotional support at 3 months after diagnosis significantly predicted a greater experience of positive consequences of the illness at 8 years after diagnosis. This association remained significant, when controlling for concurrent levels of emotional support at 8 years after diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that getting support from family and friends, characterized by reassuring, comforting, and problem-solving, in the period following diagnosis is an important resource that may help cancer survivors to find positive meaning in the cancer experience.