Purpose: Trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) has been linked with psychological outcomes in a variety of settings; however, it has received little attention in the healthcare field. We investigated the relationship between trait EI and worry at different stages of the diagnostic cancer pathway.
Methods: We recruited 64 individuals attending an outpatient urology cancer investigation. Patients completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire--Short Form and a single-item measure of arousal/pleasantness. Worry was assessed retrospectively for each stage of the pathway and concurrently for the stage of 'awaiting the specialist'.
Results: Trait EI was negatively associated with worry in the early stages of the diagnostic pathway ('deciding to see' and 'awaiting the general practitioner (GP)'; ps < 0.05) and was negatively linked to patients' worry while 'seeing the GP' (p = 0.051) after controlling for anxiety, depression, arousal and pleasantness.
Conclusion: Low trait EI is predictive of increased worry levels in the early stages of the diagnostic cancer pathway. Individual differences in trait EI should be considered when communicating medical results to patients and in the development of interventions designed to reduce worry levels in patients entering the diagnostic cancer pathway.