Background: Research has indicated spirituality buffers the adverse effect of stress, but few studies have examined the role of spirituality in the context of providing cancer care. Purpose: This study examines the moderating effects of spirituality on the relation between caregiving stress and spousal caregivers' mental and physical health. In addition, gender differences in the target moderating effects are explored. Methods: A caregiver survey was mailed to familial caregivers nominated by their respective cancer survivors including measures of spirituality (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spirituality), caregiving stress (Pearlin Stress Scale), and mental and physical health (MOS Short Form-36). Four hundred and three spousal caregivers provided valid information on these measures. Results: Hierarchical regression analyses supported the hypothesized moderating effects of spirituality but in different patterns. Caregiving stress was associated with poorer mental functioning, which was less prominent among caregivers with a high level of spirituality (stress-buffering effect). Caregiving stress was also associated with poorer physical functioning but was only significant among caregivers with a high level of spirituality (stress-aggravating effect). The same stress-buffering or aggravating effects were found for both sexes. Conclusions: The findings suggest maintaining faith and finding meaning in cancer caregiving buffer the adverse effect of caregiving stress on mental health. Highly spiritual caregivers should also be encouraged to pay more attention to their physical health while providing cancer care.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health