Work engagement among breast cancer survivors and the referents: The importance of optimism and social resources at work

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Despite a growing number of cancer survivors returning to work, little is known about their well-being at work and the work and personal characteristics related to it. The aim of the present study was to investigate personal resources (optimism and pessimism) and job-related resources (organizational climate, social support and avoidance behaviour) as antecedents of work engagement among female breast cancer survivors and their referents.


A community-based postal survey was conducted among female breast cancer survivors and their referents. The final study population consisted of 398 employed survivors (86% response rate) and 560 of their referents (71% response rate).


The level of work engagement was high in both study groups, although it was slightly higher among the referents than among the cancer survivors (p < .05). Various social job resources were equally related to work engagement in both groups. However, optimism and pessimism were more strongly associated with work engagement among cancer survivors compared to the referents. In addition, in cancer survivors high optimism buffered against the negative impact of avoidance behaviour by supervisors on work engagement.


Personal resources, such as optimism, may be especially important for cancer survivors' work-related well-being. On the other hand, social resources at work seem to be of similar salience to work engagement in cancer survivors and others.

Implication for cancer survivors

Understanding the role of job resources and personal resources appears to be important in efforts to increase a cancer survivors' commitment to work life even more so than in those working with a out breast cancer history.

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