(P122) Older African Americans’ Use of Religious Music to Cope With Cancer

April 30, 2015

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