Do Behavioural Self-Blame and Stigma Predict Positive Health Changes in Survivors of Lung or Head and Neck Cancers?

Psychol Health. 2013;28(9):1066-81. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2013.781602. Epub 2013 Apr 2.


Survivors of lung or head and neck cancers often change tobacco and alcohol consumption after diagnosis, but few studies have examined other positive health changes (PHCs) or their determinants in these groups. The present study aims to: (a) document PHCs in survivors of lung (n = 107) or head and neck cancers (n = 99) and (b) examine behavioural self-blame and stigma as determinants of PHCs. We hypothesised that: (a) survivors would make a variety of PHCs; (b) behavioural self-blame for the disease would positively predict making PHCs; and (c) stigma would negatively predict making PHCs.

Methods: Respondents self-administered measures of PHC, behavioural self-blame, and stigma. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis tested the hypotheses.

Results: More than 65% of respondents reported making PHCs, the most common being changes in diet (25%), exercise (23%) and tobacco consumption (16.5%). Behavioural self-blame significantly predicted PHCs but stigma did not. However, both behavioural self-blame and stigma significantly predicted changes in tobacco consumption.

Conclusions: Many survivors of lung or head and neck cancers engage in PHCs, but those who do not attribute the disease to their behaviour are less likely to do so. Attention to this problem and additional counselling may help people to adopt PHCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diet / psychology
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Social Stigma*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult