Objective: To examine the relationship between social support
and emotional functioning and stress reactions. Our hypothesis is that
patients who reported a high degree of social support will experience
better emotional functioning and less serious stress reactions than
patients with a low degree of social support.
Method: The sample was comprised of 434 patients at the
Palliative Medicine Unit (PMU), University Hospital of Trondheim in
Norway. The patients completed a questionnaire monthly including questions
about social support from the MacAdam's Scale, subjective stress
measured by the Impact of Event Scale (IES), and emotional functioning
measured by the subscale in the EORTC QLQ-30.
Results: Although our hypothesis was not supported at the
baseline assessment, it was supported at the second assessment, 2 months
later. Patients with high social support reported better emotional
functioning and less serious stress reactions, in terms of lower scores on
the IES avoidance subscale, than patients with a low degree of social
Significance of the results: The mixed findings may indicate
that social support has only small effects on emotional functioning and
stress reactions. Our results on the second assessment indicate, however,
that social support might work as a buffer against reactions toward
external stressful events such as terminal cancer.