Psychological distress among family carers of oesophageal cancer survivors: the role of illness cognitions and coping

Martin Dempster, Noleen K McCorry, Emma Brennan, Michael Donnelly, Liam J Murray, Brian T Johnston
Psycho-oncology 2011, 20 (7): 698-705

OBJECTIVE: The research aimed to determine the extent to which illness cognitions and coping explain psychological distress (fear of cancer recurrence, anxiety and depression symptoms) among family carers of survivors of oesophageal cancer.

METHODS: Carers of patients registered with the Oesophageal Patients' Association in the UK were mailed a questionnaire booklet containing questions about medical and demographic variables, the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised, the Cancer Coping Questionnaire, the Concerns about Recurrence Scale and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale.

RESULTS: Complete responses were received from 382 family carers (75% male; mean (SD) age=62 (10.91) years). Regression models indicated that the variables measured could explain between 35 and 49% of the variance in psychological distress among carers. Illness cognitions (particularly perceptions of the cause of, consequences of and personal control over oesophageal cancer and the carer's understanding of the condition) explained the majority of this variance. Positive focus coping strategies were also found to be important in explaining psychological distress.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study are consistent with previous research demonstrating that illness cognitions are significant correlates of adaptive outcomes, thereby suggesting that cognition-based interventions could potentially be effective in minimizing emotional distress among family carers of oesophageal cancer survivors.

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