Posttraumatic growth and well-being among adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer: a longitudinal study

Support Care Cancer. 2017 Sep;25(9):2881-2890. doi: 10.1007/s00520-017-3707-7. Epub 2017 Apr 19.


Purpose: This study examines posttraumatic growth (PTG) among adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer, as well as its correlates and trajectories over time. The study also explores the buffering role of PTG on the associations between posttraumatic stress (PTS), health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and psychological distress.

Methods: A multicenter, longitudinal, prospective study was conducted among AYA cancer patients aged 14-39 years. One hundred sixty-nine patients completed a self-report measure of PTG (PTGI) and PTS (PDS) 6, 12, and 24 months after baseline (within the first 4 months of diagnosis). At 24-month follow-up, HRQoL (SF-36) and psychological distress (BSI-18) were also assessed.

Results: Among participants, 14% showed increasing PTG, 45% remained at a stable high PTG level, 14% showed decreasing PTG, and 27% remained at a stable low PTG level. AYAs who remained high on PTG were more often younger, female, and received chemotherapy. PTG level at 6-month follow-up was predictive of mental HRQoL (β = 0.19; p = 0.026) and psychological distress (β = -0.14; p = 0.043) at 24-month follow-up when corrected for PTS and sociodemographic and clinical covariates. No relationship between PTG and physical HRQoL was found. The interactive effects of PTS and PTG on outcomes were not significant, indicating that buffering did not take place.

Conclusion: This study indicates that PTG is dynamic and predicts mental well-being outcomes but does not buffer the effects of PTS. Psychosocial interventions should focus on promoting PTG and reducing PTS in order to promote the adjustment of AYAs diagnosed with cancer.

Keywords: Adolescent and young adult; Health-related quality of life; Oncology; Posttraumatic growth; Posttraumatic stress; Psychological distress.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Young Adult