Existential Quality of Life and Associated Factors in Cancer Patients Receiving Palliative Care

Petra Rantanen, Harvey Max Chochinov, Linda L. Emanuel, George Handzo, Diana J. Wilkie, Yingwei Yao, George Fitchett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Context: Enhancing quality of life (QoL) is a goal of palliative care. Existential QoL is an important aspect of this. Objectives: This study sought to advance our understanding of existential QoL at the end of life through examining levels of Preparation and Completion, subscales of the QUAL-E, and their associated factors. Methods: We used data from a multi-site study of 331 older cancer patients receiving palliative care. We examined levels of Preparation and Completion and their association with demographic, religious, and medical factors, and with the Patient Dignity Inventory. Results: Preparation and Completion scores were moderately high. In adjusted models, being 10 years older was associated with an increase of 0.77 in Preparation (P = 0.002). Non-white patients had higher Preparation (1.03, P = 0.01) and Completion (1.56, P = 0.02). Single patients reported Completion score 1.75 point lower than those married (P = 0.01). One-point increase in intrinsic religiousness was associated with a 0.86-point increase in Completion (P = 0.03). One-point increase in terminal illness awareness was associated with 0.75-point decrease in Preparation (P = 0.001). A 10-point increase in symptom burden was associated with a decrease of 0.55 in Preparation (P < 0.001) and a decrease of 1.0 in Completion (P < 0.001). The total Patient Dignity Inventory score and all of its subscales were negatively correlated with Preparation (r from -.26 to -.52, all P < 0.001) and Completion (r from -.18 to -.31, all P < 0.001). Conclusion: While most patients reported moderate to high levels of existential QoL, a subgroup reported low existential QoL. Terminal illness awareness and symptom burden may be associated with lower existential QoL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-70
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Existential QoL
  • dignity
  • palliative care, cancer
  • symptom burden

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Nursing(all)


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