Optimism and depression: a new look at social support as a mediator among women at risk for breast cancer

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Abstract

Objective:

Breast cancer risk is a chronic stressor associated with depression. Optimism is associated with lower levels of depression among breast cancer survivors. However, to our knowledge, no studies have explored the relationship between optimism and depression among women at risk for breast cancer. We hypothesized that women at risk for breast cancer who have higher levels of optimism would report lower levels of depression and that social support would mediate this relationship.

Method:

Participants (N= 199) with elevated distress were recruited from the community and completed self-report measures of depression, optimism, and social support. Participants were grouped based on their family history of breast cancer. Path analysis was used to examine the cross-sectional relationship between optimism, social support, and depressive symptoms in each group.

Results:

Results indicated that the variance in depressive symptoms was partially explained through direct paths from optimism and social support among women with a family history of breast cancer. The indirect path from optimism to depressive symptoms via social support was significant (β= −.053; 90% CI = −.099 to −.011,p= .037) in this group. However, among individuals without a family history of breast cancer, the indirect path from optimism to depressive symptoms via social support was not significant.

Conclusions:

These results suggest that social support partially mediates the relationship between optimism and depression among women at risk for breast cancer. Social support may be an important intervention target to reduce depression among women at risk for breast cancer. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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