Impact of religious and spiritual beliefs on neuroendocrine function and health outcomes in breast cancer survivors
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Background: Breast cancer survivors rely on religious and spiritual beliefs to cope with breast cancer survivorship. Previous data have shown that religious and spiritual beliefs were associated with health outcomes. However, a gap in the literature has been a lack of objective evidence linking psychosocial variables with physiological outcomes. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine relationships between and among religious and spiritual variables, subjective health outcomes, and neuroendocrine-mediated cortisol activity in breast cancer survivors. Design: This was an exploratory, feasibility, and cross-sectional studyMethod: Subjective measures were: religious/spiritual variables (Brief Multi-dimensional Measures of Religiousness/Spirituality), subjective health (SF-36v2 Health Outcomes), and personality traits (NEO-FFI-3 Personality Inventory). Objective measures included salivary cortisol, blood pressure, pulse, respirations, and body mass index. The sample consisted of female breast cancer survivors (n=41). Results: Positive spiritual beliefs and forgiveness were related to better mental health. Positive congregational support was related to better physical and mental health. Positive spiritual experiences were associated with healthier cortisol activity patterns. Conscientiousness was associated with less healthy cortisol patterns. Subjective health perceptions were not associated with cortisol activity. Conclusion: Data supported a psychoneuroimmunological model of health in which spiritual variables were related to subjective health outcomes. Positive spiritual beliefs and conscientiousness were associated with neuroendocrine-mediated cortisol activity; although, more empirical support is required.