Psychosocial–spiritual correlates of death distress in patients with life-threatening medical conditions

Chibnall, John T; Videen, Susan D; Duckro, Paul N; Miller, Douglas K
July 2002
Palliative Medicine;Jul2002, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p331
Academic Journal
The purpose of this study was to identify demographic, disease, health care, and psychosocial-spiritual factors associated with death distress (death-related depression and anxiety). Cross-sectional baseline data from a randomized controlled trial were used. Outpatients (n=70) were recruited from an urban academic medical centre and proprietary hospital. All patients had life-threatening medical conditions, including cancer; pulmonary, cardiac, liver, or kidney disease; HIV/AIDS; or geriatric frailty. Measures of death distress, physical symptom severity, depression and anxiety symptoms, spiritual well-being, social support, patient-perceived physician communication, and patient-perceived quality of health care experiences were administered. In a hierarchical multiple regression model, higher death distress was significantly associated with living alone, greater physical symptom severity, more severe depression symptoms, lower spiritual well-being, and less physician communication as perceived by the patient. Death distress as a unique experiential construct was discriminable among younger patients with specific, diagnosable life-threatening conditions, but less so among geriatric frailty patients. The findings suggest that the experience of death distress among patients with life-threatening medical conditions is associated with the psychosocial-spiritual dimensions of the patient's life. Attention to these dimensions may buffer the negative affects of death distress.


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