Research shows that spiritual well-being correlates positively with quality of life (QOL) for people with cancer, whereas contradictory findings are frequently reported with respect to the differentiated associations between dimensions of spiritual well-being, namely peace, meaning and faith, and QOL. This study aimed to examine individual patterns of spiritual well-being among patients newly diagnosed with advanced cancer.
Cluster analysis was based on the twelve items of the 12-item Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being Scale at Time 1. A combination of hierarchical and k-means (non-hierarchical) clustering methods was employed to jointly determine the number of clusters. Self-rated health, depressive symptoms, peace, meaning and faith, and overall QOL were compared at Time 1 and Time 2.
Hierarchical and k-means clustering methods both suggested four clusters. Comparison of the four clusters supported statistically significant and clinically meaningful differences in QOL outcomes among clusters while revealing contrasting relations of faith with QOL. Cluster 1, Cluster 3, and Cluster 4 represented high, medium, and low levels of overall QOL, respectively, with correspondingly high, medium, and low levels of peace, meaning, and faith. Cluster 2 was distinguished from other clusters by its medium levels of overall QOL, peace, and meaning and low level of faith.
This study provides empirical support for individual difference in response to a newly diagnosed cancer and brings into focus conceptual and methodological challenges associated with the measure of spiritual well-being, which may partly contribute to the attenuated relation between faith and QOL.