Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Religious Struggle and Religious Comfort in Response to Illness: Health Outcomes among Stem Cell Transplant Patients

Growing interest has focused on relationships between health and religious coping among cancer patients. However, little is known about the health correlates of negative or conflicted religious responses. The current study examined general religiousness and two modes of cancer-specific religious coping, drawing closer to faith (positive) and struggling with faith (negative), among 213 multiple myeloma patients evaluated at the same point in treatment, during their initial work-up for autologous stem cell transplantation. The outcomes assessed included standardized measures and clinician ratings of depression, general distress, physical functioning, mental health functioning, pain, and fatigue. Results indicated that, after adjusting for relevant control variables, negative religious coping was associated with significantly poorer functioning on all outcomes but one: depression, distress, mental health, pain, and fatigue. Neither general religiousness nor positive religious coping was significantly related to any of the outcomes measured. Results highlight the role of negative or ambivalent religious responses to illness.