Positive and Negative Religious Coping and Well-Being in Women with Breast Cancer


Abstract:  Although religions is important to many people with cancer, few studies have explored the relationship between religious coping and well-being in a prospective manner, using validated measures, while controlling for important covariates.

Methods:  One hundred ninety-eight women with stage I or II and 86 women with stage IV stage breast cancer were recruited. Standardized assessment instruments and structured questions were used to collect data at study entry and 8 to 12 months later. Religious coping was measured with validated measures of positive and negative religious coping. Linear regression models were used to explore the relationships between positive and negative religious coping and overall physical and mental well-being, depression, and life satisfaction.

Results:  The percentage of women who used positive religious coping (i.e., partnering with God or looking to God for strength, support, or guidance) “a moderate amount” or “a lot” was 76%. Negative religious coping (i.e., feeling abandoned by or anger at God) was much less prevalent; 15% of women reported feeling abandoned by or angry at God at least “a little.” Positive religious coping was not associated with any measures of well-being. Negative religious coping predicted worse overall mental health, depressive symptoms, and lower life satisfaction after controlling for sociodemographics and other covariates. In addition, changes in negative religious coping from study entry to follow-up predicted changes in these well-being measures over the same time period. Cancer stage did not moderate the relationships between religious coping and well-being.

Conclusion:  Negative religious coping methods predict worse mental heath and life satisfaction in women with breast cancer.


Journal of Palliative Medicine


J Palliat Med. 2009 June; 12(6): 537–545.

Resource Type:

Journal Article


Randy Hebert, M.D., M.P.H., et al