Gender differences in depression and other psychiatric conditions have been widely
documented in the general population (Nolen‐Hoeksema, 2006). Therefore, several studies have
analyzed the differential gender‐based adaptation of a cancer diagnosis. However, there seem to be contradictory results. While some studies have found there to be no gender differences in terms of cancer‐related distress (Beresford et al., 2006; Deimling et al., 2006; Zabora et al., 2001; & Carlson et al., 2004; Matthews, 2003), other studies have found that females tend to display more anxiety and depressive symptoms (Mystakidou et al., 2005; Deimling et al., 2006). Interestingly, limited studies have reported men with higher levels of psychological distress when compared to women (Kaiser, Hartoonian, & Owen, 2009).
In considering the effects of gender on cancer‐related distress, there are other factors that should be considered; for instance, is the cancer gender‐specific? (E.g. breast, ovarian, cervical, prostate, testicular), or is the cancer gender‐common? (E.g. lung, pancreatic, colon, etc.). While looking at distress rates within cancer types, it is important to consider the prognosis/ survival rate of different types of cancer. For example, perhaps women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a serious form of cancer, will report higher levels of distress in relation to men diagnosed with highly treatable prostate cancer. This observation may be attributed to survival rate as opposed to gender.
Yet another factor to consider while examining gender differences in cancer‐related distress rates are cultural determinants (Mehnert, Shim, Koyama, Cho, Inoi, Paik, & Koch, 2006). Some cultures may find it less socially acceptable for men to admit to distress, which may in turn explain why females have been found to report higher levels of distress. For example, Wilson (1967) found that males are more willing to express certain types of emotions more than others. Women are more likely to express feelings of fear than men, and more likely to report fears that others may view as “silly” because it is not socially acceptable for men to do so (Wilson, 1967). Findings concerning gender differences in cancer‐related distress have largely varied based upon location and types of symptoms as well. For example, males have reported higher distress in the physical dimension of symptoms, but for females in the psychological dimension. However, females have reported higher distress in general (Herschbach, Book, Brandi, Keller,
Lindena, Newohner, & Marten‐Mittag, 2008). Moreover, females treated in University clinics and rehabilitation clinics reported significantly higher distress than their male counterparts in the same setting, yet distress rates varied in different settings (Herschbach, Book, Brandi, Keller, Lindena, Newohner, & Marten‐Mittag, 2008). However, such results may be due to the complex confounding effects and stage of disease in these settings. Furthermore, across different cancer types, females have been found to be more distressed than males in each category. Highest distress rates were found in individuals with respiratory tract cancers for both males and females (Hershbach et al., 2008).
Finally, when gender differences are found to exist in terms of cancer‐related distress, it is important to recognize that a cancer diagnosis may affect men and women uniquely and may trigger different coping methods. Therefore, intervention efforts may need to cater differently to men versus women. For example, research has demonstrated that females tend to experience more cancer‐related pain than men, speculated to be accounted for by females being undertreated for such pain (Im, Chee, Guevara, et al., 2007). Further, females have tended to display more emotion‐focused and social support seeking efforts compared to their male counterparts (Clarke, McCXarthy, Downie, Ashley, & Anderson, 2009).
School of Science and Technology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Social networks; Self-Help Groups;
Subject - Local
Online Cancer Support Groups; Gender; Gender distress; Social networking
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Kaiser, Natalie Christine, "Exploring Gender Differences in Online Cancer Support Groups" (2011). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 35.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives