Survivor guilt: analyzing the concept and its contexts

ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 2015 Jan-Mar;38(1):20-33. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000058.


Survivor guilt, a concept associated with the interpersonal process of "surviving" harm while others do not, increasingly appears in nursing, medicine, and psychology literature. Paradoxically, the phenomenon is rarely defined and often poorly described. Combining Rodger's evolutionary concept analysis with a comprehensive literature review, we explain the attributes, antecedents, consequences, related concepts, and surrogate terms of survivor guilt. A new definition emerged from the evolving use of the concept in new contexts. Survivor guilt is a valid form of suffering for which effective interventions need to be developed. This analysis extends the concept, laying the foundation for comprehensive treatment strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Guilt*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / nursing*
  • Stress, Psychological / nursing*
  • Survivors / psychology*