The interaction of post-traumatic growth and post-traumatic stress symptoms in predicting depressive symptoms and quality of life

E Forrest Morrill, Noel T Brewer, Suzanne C O'Neill, Sarah E Lillie, E Claire Dees, Lisa A Carey, Barbara K Rimer
Psycho-oncology 2008, 17 (9): 948-53

OBJECTIVE: We sought to explore whether post-traumatic growth (PTG) (positive change or benefit finding resulting from trauma) moderates relationships between post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and both depression and quality of life (QOL) among breast cancer survivors.

METHODS: We interviewed 161 women previously treated for early stage breast cancer. We assessed PTG using the Post-traumatic Growth Inventory, PTSS using the PTSD Checklist, depressive symptoms using the CES-D and QOL using the FACT-B.

RESULTS: Higher PTSS was associated with greater depressive symptoms and lower QOL (p<0.01). The relationship between PTSS and depression was attenuated among women with higher levels of PTG (PTSS x PTG interaction, p<0.05). The same pattern of results was found for QOL (interaction p<0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: We report the novel finding that PTG moderated relationships between PTSS and both depression and QOL. We speculate that finding positive meaning in response to a distressing event, such as diagnosis of cancer, may be psychologically protective and could indirectly influence the long-term occurrence of depressive symptoms and impaired QOL.

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