Most childhood cancer survivors report that they are highly satisfied with life
Life satisfaction is linked to better emotional health and less perceived pain (In press 2018)
Can the experience of childhood cancer lead some survivors to feel satisfaction with their lives and improve their emotional health? New LTFU research suggests that this may be so.
The team that conducted the study analyzed survey responses of a group of LTFU Study participants and their parents relating to social, emotional, and physical aspects of survivorship, and how these things impacted survivors’ perceptions of their life and health.
Dr. Aurelie Weinstein of Georgia Gwinnett College led the study. She explains, “We examined overall life satisfaction and posttraumatic growth in adolescence, and their effect on survivors’ future emotional and physical health in young adulthood. Posttraumatic growth means that an individual experiences personal growth in response to difficult life challenges such as cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
The survivors in the study were all under ten years old when they were diagnosed with childhood cancer. They were adolescents (age 12 -17 years) when their parents completed the first LTFU Study survey. They then completed two more questionnaires during young adulthood.
On average, the survivors rated their satisfaction with their life as more than seven on a scale of one to 10, indicating a thriving and positive view of their life situation.
Adolescents and young adult survivors are at increased risk of developing severe chronic health conditions. Survivors’ level of life satisfaction was not associated with development of chronic health problems; but those who were highly satisfied with their lives reported fewer emotional health problems and were more optimistic about their future health. They also reported lower levels of perceived pain.
The study also confirmed that some survivors experience post-traumatic growth associated with their childhood cancer diagnosis. Post-traumatic growth was more likely in survivors who were challenged with health problems, suggesting some were able to see both positive and negative aspects of these health challenges.
“Our study results show that most childhood cancer survivors have low levels of emotional problems and high levels of life satisfaction,” Dr. Weinstein notes.
“Additionally,” she says, “we found that adolescent survivors who got along well with their family and peers had greater life satisfaction during young adulthood. They also had a more positive outlook on their health and fewer emotional problems as adults. Having good ‘social skills’ may not only make survivors happier, but also protect their future mental health and perceived general health.”
Dr. Weinstein urged health care providers to develop methods to help young survivors develop good social skills, which could have a positive effect on their overall health as adults.
Weinstein AG, Henrich CC, Armstrong GT, et al. Roles of Positive Psychological Outcomes in Future Health Perception and Mental Health Problems: A Report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Psychooncology. In Press.