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, 25 (1), 2-10

Relations of Meaning in Life and Sense of Coherence to Distress in Cancer Patients: A Meta-Analysis


Relations of Meaning in Life and Sense of Coherence to Distress in Cancer Patients: A Meta-Analysis

Joseph G Winger et al. Psychooncology.


Objective: Cancer patients report high rates of distress. The related constructs of meaning in life (MiL) and sense of coherence (SOC) have long been recognized as important factors in the psychological adjustment to cancer; however, both constructs' associations with distress have not been quantitatively reviewed or compared in this population. Informed by Park's integrated meaning-making model and Antonovsky's salutogenic model, the goals of this meta-analysis were the following: (1) to compare the strength of MiL-distress and SOC-distress associations in cancer patients; and (2) to examine potential moderators of both associations (i.e., age, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disease stage, and time since diagnosis).

Methods: A literature search was conducted using electronic databases. Overall, 62 records met inclusion criteria. The average MiL-distress and SOC-distress associations were quantified as Pearson's r correlation coefficients and compared using a one-way ANOVA.

Results: Both MiL and SOC demonstrated significant, negative associations with distress (r = -0.41, 95% CI: -0.47 to -0.35, k = 44; and r = -0.59, 95% CI: -0.67 to -0.51, k = 18, respectively). Moreover, the MiL-distress association was significantly smaller than the SOC-distress association (Qb = 10.42, df = 1, p < 0.01). Neither association varied by the tested moderators.

Conclusions: Findings provide support for the clinical relevance of MiL and SOC across demographic and medical subgroups of cancer patients. The strength of the SOC-distress association suggests that incorporating aspects of SOC (e.g., the perceived manageability of life circumstances) into meaning-centered interventions may improve their effectiveness for distressed cancer patients.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Record retrieval flowchart

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