Seeking meaning and hope: Self-reported spiritual and existential needs among an ethnically-diverse cancer patient population

Alyson Moadel, Carole Morgan, Anne Fatone, Jennifer Grennan, Jeanne Carter, Gia Laruffa, Anne Skummy, Janice Dutcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

281 Scopus citations


Spiritual beliefs and practices are believed to promote adjustment to cancer through their effect on existential concerns, including one's personal search for the meaning of life and death, and hope. This study sought to identify the nature, prevalence, and correlates of spiritual/existential needs among an ethnically-diverse, urban sample of cancer patients (n = 248). Patients indicated wanting help with: overcoming my fears (51%), finding hope (42%), finding meaning in life (40%), finding spiritual resources (39%); or someone to talk to about: finding peace of mind (43%), the meaning of life (28%), and dying and death (25%). Patients (n = 71) reporting five or more spiritual/existential needs were more likely to be of Hispanic (61%) or African-American (41%) ethnicity (vs. 25% White; p < 0.001), more recently diagnosed (mean = 25.6 vs. 43.7 months; p < 0.02), and unmarried (49% vs. 34%; p < 0.05), compared with those (n = 123) reporting two or fewer needs. Treatment status, cancer site, education, gender, age, and religion were not associated with level of needs endorsement. Discriminant analysis found minority status to be the best predictor of high needs endorsement, providing 65% correct classification, p < 0.001. Implications for the development and delivery of spiritual/existential interventions in a multi-ethnic oncology setting are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-385
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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