Religion and particularly the use of religious songs are important aspects of coping with the cancer experience among older African Americans. During diagnosis and treatment, a religious song is likely to be a viable complement to therapies for symptom reduction and mood elevation among this population.
Jill B. Hamilton, PhD, Angelo D. Moore, PhD, FNP, Kayoll Galbraith, BSN, Peter A. Johnstone, MD; Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing; Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry, Womack Army Medical Center, US Army; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Moffitt Cancer Center
OBJECTIVE: Among Americans, African Americans are more likely to pray at least daily, report affiliations with a religious group, indicate that religion is very important in their lives, and indicate that they are certain God exists. An extensive body of literature on African-American spirituals informs regarding the use of religious songs to manage life stressors, such as a cancer diagnosis.
METHODS: A total of 65 African-American men and women residing in the southeastern United States were interviewed. Inclusion criteria included: African-American ethnicity by self-report, age at least 50 years, and having experienced the loss of a loved one or a life-threatening illness. Semistructured interviews lasting 15–60 min were conducted between 2008 and 2010. These interviews were held in participants’ homes or private rooms located in their churches. Participants were given a $25 gift card for participating. All interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Initial steps of content analysis were to construct a table that organized the data collected, including participants’ responses on whether a song, scripture, or prayer was used; the words of the songs, scriptures, and prayers; the personal meanings of the songs, scriptures, or prayers; and the outcomes derived from using any of these religious expressions. Five categories of religious songs derived from the data were: Thanksgiving and Praise, Instructive, Memory of Forefathers, Communication With God, and Belief in Life After Death.
RESULTS: Of the participants interviewed, 23 indicated that cancer was their most stressful life event. The most frequent type song used was Thanksgiving and Praise (n = 9, 39%), followed by Instructive (n = 8, 35%), Communication with God (n = 7, 30%), Belief in Life after Death (n = 5, 22%), and Memory of Forefathers (n = 3, 13%). The most frequently reported outcomes were comfort (n = 9, 39%), hope (n = 9, 39%), and strength (n = 9, 39%). The least frequently reported outcomes were peace of mind (n = 8, 35%), support (n = 6, 26%), protection (n = 1, 4%), and guidance (n = 1, 4%).
CONCLUSIONS: Religion and particularly the use of religious songs are important aspects of coping with the cancer experience among older African Americans. During diagnosis and treatment, a religious song is likely to be a viable complement to therapies for symptom reduction and mood elevation among this population.
Proceedings of the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Radium Society - americanradiumsociety.org