Background: One's spirituality or religious beliefs and practices may have a profound impact on how the individual copes with the suffering that so often accompanies advanced disease. Several previous studies suggest that negative religious coping can significantly affect health outcomes.
Objective: The primary aim of this study was to explore the relationship between spirituality, religious coping, and symptoms of distress among a group of inpatients referred to the palliative care consult service.
Design: Pilot study.
Setting: The study was conducted in a large academic medical center with a comprehensive Palliative Care and Home Hospice Program.
Measurement: (1) National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Management Assessment Tool; (2) Pargament Brief Religious Coping Scale (Brief RCOPE); (3) Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being (FACIT-Sp); (4) Puchalski's FICA; and (5) Profile of Mood States-Short Form (POMS-SF).
Results: The 31 subjects surveyed experienced moderate distress (5.8 +/- 2.7), major physical and psychosocial symptom burden, along with reduced function and significant caregiving needs. The majority (87.2%) perceived themselves to be at least somewhat spiritual, with 77.4% admitting to being at least somewhat religious. Negative religious coping (i.e., statements regarding punishment or abandonment by God) was positively associated with distress, confusion, depression, and negatively associated with physical and emotional well-being, as well as quality of life.
Conclusions: Palliative care clinicians should be alert to symptoms of spiritual distress and intervene accordingly. Future research is needed to identify optimal techniques to address negative religious coping.