The role of social support and self-esteem in the presence and course of depressive symptoms: a comparison of cancer patients and individuals from the general population
The key focus of this longitudinal study in the Netherlands was to determine the role of social support (i.e. perceived availability of emotional support, lack of received problem-focused emotional support, and negative interactions) and positive and negative self-esteem in depressive symptoms in 475 recently diagnosed cancer patients and 255 individuals without cancer from the general population. Patients and the comparison group were interviewed and filled in a questionnaire at two points in time: 3 months (T1) and 15 months (T2) after diagnosis. The results indicated that social support and self-esteem were weakly to moderately related to each other. Negative self-esteem was more strongly related to all three types of social support, compared to positive self-esteem. Regression analyses showed that social support and self-esteem were independently related to depressive symptoms (concurrently), such that lower levels of social support and self-esteem were strongly associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms. This finding suggests that these two resources supplement each other additively. A longitudinal analysis showed that social support and self-esteem also predicted future levels of depressive symptoms, although the explained variance was much lower than in a cross-sectional analysis. Comparisons between cancer patients and the comparison group generally revealed no significant differences between the two groups in the associations of social support and self-esteem with depressive symptoms. The only exception was a lack of problem-focused emotional support. At three months after diagnosis, a lack of this type of support, characterised by reassuring, comforting, problem-solving, and advice, was more strongly related to depressive symptoms in patients than in the comparison group.
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Volume (Year): 57 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (July)
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