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Psychosocial Predictors of Depression Among Older African American Patients With Cancer

Jill B. Hamilton
Allison M. Deal
Angelo D. Moore
Nakia C. Best
Kayoll V. Galbraith
Hyman Muss
ONF 2013, 40(4), 394-402 DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.394-402

Purpose/Objectives: To determine whether psychosocial factors predict depression among older African American patients with cancer.

Design: A descriptive correlational study.

Setting: Outpatient oncology clinic of a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the southeastern United States.

Sample: African American patients with cancer aged 50-88 years.

Methods: Fisher's exact and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests were used to evaluate differences between patients who were possibly depressed (Geriatric Depression Scale) or not. Multivariate linear regression statistics were used to identify the psychosocial factors that predicted higher depression scores. Education and gender were included as covariates.

Main Research Variables: Religiosity, emotional support, collectivism, perceived stigma, and depression.

Findings: Participants (N = 77) had a mean age of 61 years (SD = 8.4), and a majority were well-educated, insured, religiously affiliated, and currently in treatment. Participants who were in the lowest income category, not married, or male had higher depression scores. The multivariable model consisting of organized religion, emotional support, collectivism, education, and gender explained 52% (adjusted R2) of the variation in depression scores. Stigma became insignificant in the multivariable model.

Conclusions: Psychosocial factors are important predictors of depression. Emotional support and organized religious activities may represent protective factors against depression, whereas collectivism may increase their risk.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses need to be particularly aware of the potential psychological strain for patients with collectivist values, experienced stigma, disruptions in church attendance, and lack of emotional support. In addition, the treatment plans for these patients should ensure that family members are knowledgeable about cancer, its treatment, and side effects so they are empowered to meet support needs.

Knowledge Translation: Among older African American patients with cancer, emotional support and reassurance from family and friends that they will not abandon them decreases the likelihood of depressive symptoms and minimizes the impact of stigmatizing responses, but the perception that the illness is placing a strain on the family increases the likelihood of such symptoms. Emotional support likely is a stronger predictor of depressive symptoms than religious service attendance.

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