People with advanced cancer experience Social Constraint when they feel they are required to restrict or modify their cognitions and emotions relating to cancer. Stigmatization experienced by people with cancer involves feelings of alienation and negatively impacts sense of self, wellbeing and social interactions. Current literature on social constraint amongst people with advanced cancer is limited, and the ways in which social constraint influences psychological distress and the social/psychological mechanisms of stigma are not well understood.
This study explored levels of social constraint reported by people with advanced cancer and its associations with stigmatisation and psychological distress.
This study had an exploratory cross-sectional design which involved a quantitative self-report questionnaire. Participants were patients of oncology outpatient services at two tertiary metropolitan hospitals. Outcomes measured included distress (Brief Symptom Inventory-18), social constraint (Social Constraint Scale) and stigmatisation (Social Impact Scale).
Data was collected on forty five people. Descriptive statistics and correlational analyses explored associations between outcomes. The mean age for participants was 64 years and the majority were male (N=26; 58%). Participants were diagnosed with advanced gastro intestinal cancer (47%) or advanced lung cancer (53%). Prevalence of overall psychological distress was 8.9%. Social Constraint significantly correlated with stigmatisation (r=0.352; p<0.01) and anxiety (r=0.401; p<0.01).
This study revealed a significant association between social constraint with stigmatisation and anxiety amongst people with advanced lung or gastro intestinal cancer. It is possible that people who experienced high levels of stigmatisation related to their cancer experience felt required to modify their cancer related cognitions and emotions to others, which may have adversely affected their psychological outcomes. These concepts are of relevance to future research and should be explored further in regards to coping and support interventions for people with advanced cancer.