Exploring spiritual needs and their associated factors in an urban sample of early and advanced cancer patients

Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2014 Nov;23(6):786-94. doi: 10.1111/ecc.12200. Epub 2014 Apr 15.


Although it is widely recognised that people turn to spirituality in times of crises, the interest in exploring the spiritual needs of cancer patients is just beginning to grow. The purpose of this study was to conduct a spiritual needs assessment with cancer patients living in a Northern European metropolitan region in order to (a) examine the relevance and nature of spiritual needs; (b) to clarify the role of demographic and clinical characteristics in spiritual needs; and (c) to identify their associations with dimensions of psychological distress. N = 285 outpatients with mixed cancer sites and of all tumour stages were surveyed cross-sectionally. Instruments included the Spiritual Needs Questionnaire (SpNQ) and measures of anxiety, distress, hopelessness and meaning-related life attitudes. Almost all patients (94%) reported at least one spiritual need. The needs for Inner Peace and Actively Giving emerged to be of greatest importance. Significant, but weak differences were found for age, gender and being in a partnership. No associations for medical characteristics were observed. Regression analyses revealed anxiety as the strongest predictor for the subscales Existential Needs, Inner Peace and Actively Giving. The results emphasise the relevance of spiritual needs in cancer patients. The call for spiritual assessment and interventions to meet spiritual needs in cancer patients is strengthened.

Keywords: cancer; needs assessment; spiritual care; spiritual needs; spirituality.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spirituality*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult