Objective This paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of how and why religion affects psychosocial health outcomes. We propose a theoretical model predicting that when women with breast cancer defer control to God they will experience fewer breast cancer related concerns. Deferring control to God, however, should also reduce the likelihood that they take a proactive coping approach, which will be exacerbated by lowered breast cancer concerns. We therefore predict that this passive coping style will ultimately result in lower levels of quality of life. Methods Data were collected as part of a randomized clinical trial funded by the National Cancer Institute. A total of 192 women with breast cancer participated in a computer-mediated social support group. Deferring control to God statements were captured by using computer-aided content analysis of discussion posts. Psychosocial outcomes were measured using longitudinal survey data. Analysis was performed using structural equation modeling. Results The results of our analysis largely confirm our mediation model for which we find significant model fit. As predicted, deferring control to God leads to lower levels of breast cancer concerns but also to more passive coping styles. Ultimately, deferring control to God can lead to lower levels of quality of life. Conclusions Our study demonstrates how and why religious coping can lead to both positive and negative psychosocial health outcomes. Health care practitioners should encourage patients who are relying on religion to keep their end of the bargain and maintain an active coping style.
- breast cancer
- computer-mediated social support
- quality of life
- religious coping