Does social support reduce distress and worry among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer?

Christina Maresch Bernardes, Danette Langbecker, Vanessa Beesley, Gail Garvey, Patricia Casarolli Valery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Connections to people and place are particularly important for Indigenous Australians. It is currently unknown what role social support plays in helping this population cope with a diagnosis of cancer. 

Aims: This study describes components of social support available for Indigenous Australians with cancer and investigates its association with distress and/or worry. 

Methods and results: Secondary data of a cross-sectional study involving 248 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients was used to map out social support dimensions (structural, functional, and appraisal) using Cheng et al's27 social support framework. Distress was measured by the distress thermometer and worry by the worry chart. Overall, 67% of participants reported significant distress, and 49% worry about their cancer. In the functional dimension of social support, participants who had someone caring for them during diagnosis and treatment had increased odds of reporting worry. In the appraisal dimension, participants with unmet social support needs had significantly increased odds of reporting distress and worry compared with participants who were satisfied with the support received. Components in the structural dimension were not associated with distress or worry. 

Conclusion: While many aspects of social support did not appear to affect cancer distress or worry, having a carer or having unmet social support needs had a negative impact on these outcomes. Health professionals should consider the worries of the bonded relationship and monitor patients' needs and their satisfaction with the support provided as an integral part of cancer care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1178
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Reports
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


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