Spiritual needs among patients with chronic pain diseases and cancer living in a secular society

Pain Med. 2013 Sep;14(9):1362-73. doi: 10.1111/pme.12198. Epub 2013 Jul 19.


Objective: Research has shown that several patients report unmet psychosocial and spiritual needs. While most studies focus on patients with advanced stages of disease, we intended to identify unmet spiritual needs in patients with chronic pain diseases and cancer living in a secular society.

Methods: In an anonymous cross-sectional study, standardized questionnaires were provided to German patients with chronic pain diseases (and cancer), i.e., Spiritual Needs Questionnaire (SpNQ), Spirituality/Religiosity and Coping (SpREUK-15), Spiritual Well-being (FACIT-Sp), Brief Multidimensional Life Satisfaction Scale, Interpretation of Illness Questionnaire, and Escape from Illness (Escape).

Results: We enrolled 392 patients (67% women, mean age 56.3 ± 13.6 years; 61% Christian denomination) with chronic pain diseases (86%) and cancer (14%). Religious Needs (mean score 0.5 ± 0.8 on the scale) and Existential Needs (0.8 ± 0.8 on the scale) were low, while needs for Inner Peace (1.5 ± 0.9 on the scale) and Giving/Generativity were scored high (1.3 ± 1.0 on the scale). Regression analyses indicated that Religious Needs can be predicted best by (religious) "Trust," the illness interpretation "call for help," and living with a partner; Existential Needs can be predicted by "call for help" and to a weaker extent by (religious) "Trust." Existential Needs are influenced negatively by the illness interpretation "challenge." Needs for Inner Peace were predicted only in trend by the illness interpretation "threat," and there were no significant predictors for the Giving/Generativity needs in the respective regression model.

Conclusions: Patients with chronic pain diseases predominantly report needs related to inner peace and generative relatedness on a personal level, whereas needs related to transcendent relatedness were of minor relevance. Nevertheless, even religious "skeptics" can express specific religious needs, and these should be recognized. Addressing patients' specific needs and also supporting them in their struggle with chronic illness remain a challenging task for the modern health care system.

Keywords: Cancer; Chronic Pain Diseases; Coping; Interpretation of Illness; Life Satisfaction; Religiosity; Spiritual Needs.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Secularism*
  • Spirituality*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires