Religiosity, spirituality, and psychological distress in african-americans at risk for having a hereditary cancer predisposing gene mutation

Anita Y. Kinney, James E. Coxworth, Sara E. Simonson, Joseph B. Fanning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Elevated psychological distress has been observed among people at increased risk for familial cancer. Researchers consider religiosity and spirituality (RS) to be positive coping mechanisms associated with reduced psychological distress. Relatively little is known about the impact of RS on genomic health issues. The objectives of our study were: (1) describe the prevalence of RS and depressive symptoms and (2) explore how RS relates to psychological distress in a cohort of individuals with a ≥25% prior probability of a genetic predisposition to cancer. Participants (n = 99) were drawn from an African-American, Louisiana-based kindred with a mutation at the BRCA1 locus. This analysis reports findings from a survey assessing RS and the use of three types of religious coping styles: collaborative, self-directing, and deferring. Clinically significant depressive symptoms were relatively high (27%); with females (33%) more likely than males (17%) to report symptoms (P< 0.01). The majority of participants reported being highly religious. The most commonly employed religious problem solving style used by participants was collaborative (X̄ = 22.9; SD = 5.8) versus self-directing (X̄ = 12.8; SD = 5.1) and deferring (X̄ = 19.9; SD = 6.3). We did not observe significant associations between RS indicators and psychological distress, nor did we observe appreciable differences related to gender or risk perception. Although RS beliefs and practices are important for many African-Americans, we did not find evidence that indicators of self-reported RS are associated with psychological distress prior to genetic counseling and testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Medical Genetics, Part C: Seminars in Medical Genetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 15 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


  • African-American
  • cancer
  • genetic
  • psychological distress
  • religiosity
  • spirituality


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