Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Spiritual well-being and spiritual distress predict adjustment in adolescent and young adult cancer survivors

OBJECTIVE: Spirituality is related to many aspects of cancer survivors’ physical and psychological adjustment. Given their unique developmental issues, spiritual issues may be especially important to adolescent and young adult (AYA) survivors, yet little research has been conducted on spirituality with AYA survivors. The present study examines how two aspects of spirituality, spiritual well-being (comprising faith and meaning/peace), and spiritual struggle relate to later post-cancer adjustment. METHODS: At Time 1 (T1), 120 AYA survivors completed questionnaires on spirituality and adjustment (fear of recurrence, post-traumatic stress symptoms, perceived post-traumatic growth, psychological distress, and health-related quality of life). Eighty-three of these participants also completed these questionnaires at Time 2 (T2), one year later. RESULTS: Our sample reported fairly low spiritual well-being (meaning/peace, faith) and spiritual struggle. As expected, T1 spiritual well-being was positively correlated with some aspects of psychological adjustment at T2, whereas T1 spiritual struggle was inversely correlated with T2 psychological adjustment. Both dimensions of T1 spiritual well-being, but not struggle, were positively associated with perceived T2 posttraumatic growth. In general, T1 spiritual well-being and struggle correlated with T2 psychological adjustment even when demographics and cancer-related variables were controlled. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that while spirituality is not important to all AYA survivors, both spiritual well-being and struggle have important associations with adjustment and may warrant clinical attention. Future research is needed to more fully understand the role of spirituality in AYA survivors’ adjustment in more depth.