Document Type



cancer; risk behaviors; smoking; alcohol use; problem-solving


Journal of Psychosocial Oncology

Rights Management

CC - BY - NC


Cancer diagnoses may adversely affect emotional functioning in patients and their caregivers, which in turn may increase risk behaviors, such as tobacco and alcohol use. This study investigates the relationships among problem-solving ability, distress, and risk behaviors in patients with head/neck and lung cancer and their caregivers. The authors hypothesized that patients and caregivers who experienced higher distress would engage in more risk behaviors, but that Social Problem-Solving (SPS) would moderate this effect, in that those who possessed greater SPS ability would engage in fewer risk behaviors. Twenty-one cancer patients and 11 of their caregivers were surveyed shortly after diagnosis. Participants completed the Profile of Mood States, the Social Problem-Solving Inventory—Revised, and measures of tobacco and alcohol use. Total SPS ability was higher in patients than caregivers but generally low in both groups. Total distress was lower in patients compared to caregivers. Mean comparisons indicated that caregivers smoked more cigarettes per day and consumed more alcohol than patients. Results indicate that patients and caregivers may have a decreased ability to solve problems, and that caregivers engage in more frequent risk behaviors than patients, suggesting that caregivers may be at risk and warrant further study. The study design prevents causative conclusions and limited sample size prohibits more complex analyses. Further research on social problem-solving ability, distress, and risk behaviors may reveal more robust relationships and provide insight for intervention development for these groups.

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