Cancer support group participation in the United Kingdom: A national survey

Macmillan Research Unit, School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Work, University of Manchester, Jean McFarlane Building, University Place, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.
Supportive Care in Cancer (Impact Factor: 2.36). 05/2011; 19(5):675-83. DOI: 10.1007/s00520-010-0887-9
Source: PubMed


Existing data on cancer support groups come largely from small studies in specific geographic areas, particularly in the UK. This study was designed on a national scale to describe the characteristics of support group members and examine associations between group and participant variables and perceived outcomes.
A postal survey of support groups in the UK was performed with group leaders asked to distribute questionnaires to their members. Questionnaires included sections for demographic and medical information, group attendance, perceived outcomes and psychosocial variables.
From an original pool of 2,883 members from 206 groups, a total of 748 patient members within 172 support groups participated. Females comprised 68.2% of the sample, mean age was 65.4 ± 10.2 years, and 73.3% were retired. Post-secondary education was reported by 42.2%, and the proportion living in the two least deprived quartiles was 35.6%. Participants were a mean of 76.5 ± 67.4 months post-diagnosis, with 60.6% in remission. Breast cancer was the most common diagnosis (48.8%). The mean length of membership was 56.0 ± 54.7 months. Frequency of perceived benefits was positively associated with length of membership and attendance record. Psychosocial outcomes did not differ based on group variables.
Support group participants are more often female, white, retired, married and long-term cancer survivors. Contrary to earlier studies, support group members do not tend to have high educational achievements or socioeconomic status. Perceived benefits are highest among long-term members and regular attenders.

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