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PhD ceremony Ms. T.M. Brakel: The effects of social comparison information on cancer survivors’ quality of life. A field-experimental intervention approach

When:Th 19-06-2014 15:00 - 16:00

Cancer patients often compare themselves with other cancer patients, usually to make themselves feel better or to learn from the comparison target. They also do this in the often uncertain period after completion of the hospital treatment. In order to support cancer patients, it is possible to provide them with social comparison information in interventions. In this study, social comparison interventions were developed and in three field experiments the effects were examined on the quality of life of cancer patients.

The conclusion was that the effects of the social comparison interventions were rather different for cancer patients: In some patients, the quality of life improved while it declined in others. This was due to differences in social comparison sensitivity and patients perceived health status. In a follow-up study the individual differences between cancer patients were taken into account; in this intervention patients received social comparison information that was specifically designed for them. Two other individual differences appeared to influence the effects of the social comparison intervention now: the differences between patients with regard to their current experienced life-threat and their future health perspective.

In psychosocial programs for cancer patients it is therefore important to take individual differences patients into account when confronting them with information from, or about fellow patients, such as in peer support groups. Probably some patients should be advised not to participate in such programs because their quality of life may decrease. The insights from the three field experiments can contribute to the development of effective psychosocial interventions, which have no adverse effects.

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