By PhD Fellow, MTh (theology), Christine Tind Johannessen-Henry1 2, PhD (statistics), Isabelle Deltour1, Professor, PhD, MTh, Niels Henrik Gregersen2 , Professor, MD PhD DMSc, Christoffer Johansen1
1Dept. of Psychosocial Cancer Research, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society
2 Dept. of Systematic Theology, University of Copenhagen
AIM: This baseline-study investigates the association between religious beliefs among Danish cancer survivors and the actual ways of coping with the life as a cancer survivor. Further the study target institutional and non-institutional religious beliefs of cancer survivors. About 80 % of the Danish population are members of The National Church (Lutheran), but the majority of these members have a distant connection to the church society.
MATERIAL & METHOD: We developed a questionnaire, which was filled in by 1048 consecutive cancer survivors who received the instrument between 1 May 2006 and 1 December 2008. In addition to self constructed items, the questionnaire included: FACIT-Sp, DUREL, POMS SF, Mini-MAC, socio-economic and demographic data and information from medical records.
PRELIMINARY RESULTS: A total of 39 % state ‘somewhat’, ‘quite a bit’ or ‘very much’ when responding to the question: “I find strength in my faith or spiritual beliefs”; 59 % state ‘yes’ to “I believe in a god”; 34 % mark ‘yes’ to ”I believe in a god who I can talk to”; 30 % answer ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ or ‘daily’ to “I have had experiences which I connect with God or a higher power”; 30% answered ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ or ‘daily’ to “It happens, that I say a prayer”. Regression analysis of the association between questions regarding God-relation and distress and mental adjustment showed that, e.g., believing in a god one can talk to or having experiences connected to a god or a higher power was associated with more anxiety but also with fighting spirit.
CONCLUSION: Religious beliefs seem to play a significant role to at least half of the respondents, and some aspects of religious beliefs seem to be associated with aspects of distress and mental adjustment to cancer. These findings may indicate that cancer patients who are more anxious might have a more personal relation to a god and/or experience the presence of a god more often – and in that sense use their faith more actively – in search for comfort, strength and relief.
This study points towards the fact that many Danish cancer survivors seem to have religious beliefs which are sufficiently deep-rooted to have an effect on coping with situations of cancer.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: The study was supported by the Psychosocial Research Foundation (Danish Cancer Society).
This study is a part of the PhD project Cancer, Meaning and Religious Dimension, which – in a dialog between philosophy of religion and psycho-oncology – aims at exploring the meanings of religious beliefs among Danish cancer survivors. The project contains a longitudinal quantitative study, a qualitative study completing 20 open semi-structured interviews and a theological analysis of the results of the epidemiological and qualitative data.