Social support and health-related quality of life in women with breast cancer: a longitudinal study

Psychooncology. 2014 Sep;23(9):1014-20. doi: 10.1002/pon.3523. Epub 2014 Apr 3.


Objectives: A breast cancer diagnosis is a distressing event that impacts on physical and psychological functioning. This study examined the longitudinal relationships among a diagnosis of breast cancer, social support, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

Methods: Participants were 412 women from the 1946-1951 birth cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health who self-reported a new diagnosis of breast cancer between 1998 and 2007. The three surveys of longitudinal data analyzed included data 3 years before diagnosis, at diagnosis (baseline), and 3 years after diagnosis (follow-up). Social support was measured using the 19-item Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey; HRQOL was measured using the Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short-Form Health Survey.

Results: Compared with pre-diagnosis HRQOL, women newly diagnosed with breast cancer reported significantly poorer HRQOL in subscales related to pain, physical functioning, and health and vitality. At 3-year follow-up, HRQOL had improved in most domains to levels consistent with pre-diagnosis. Levels of social support remained stable across time. The structural equation model showed that social support was positively predictive of better physical and mental HRQOL at 3-year follow-up.

Conclusions: Longitudinal analyses indicate that social support appears to be an important predictor of HRQOL in women diagnosed with breast cancer. In particular, positive emotional and informational support that may normally be provided by a partner is important in maintaining HRQOL. Identification of those lacking social support, especially patients without partners, will enable them to be guided to appropriate support networks and programs.

Keywords: breast cancer; cancer; longitudinal; oncology; quality of life; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Australia
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Self Report
  • Social Support*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult