Distress, delay of gratification and preference for palliative care in men with prostate cancer

James Gerhart, Yasmin Asvat, Emily Lattie, Sean O'Mahony, Paul Duberstein, Michael Hoerger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background Patient-centered cancer care standards include routine psychosocial distress screening and referral for supportive care services. Although many cancer patients report psychosocial distress that could be alleviated by supportive services including palliative care, patients often decline such services for reasons that are poorly understood. Research on decision-making suggests that during periods of acute distress, individuals have more difficulty prioritizing long-term over immediate gains. Thus, distressed cancer patients may prioritize immediate gains (e.g., avoidance of palliative care discussions in the moment) over longer-term gains (e.g., improved quality of life in the future). Method This study investigated the associations between psychosocial distress, difficulties with delay of gratification (tendency to prioritize short-term over longer-term gains), and preference for palliative care in a sample of 212 men with a history of prostate cancer (94% white men and 27% advanced stage, age M = 62, SD = 8). It was hypothesized that psychosocial distress would be associated with lower preferences for palliative care, and this association would be explained, in part, by difficulty delaying gratification. Self-report measures included the depression anxiety stress scales, delay of gratification inventory, and ratings on an item assessing preferences for palliative care. Results Consistent with the hypothesis, mediation models confirmed that the association of psychosocial distress with lower preference for palliative care was mediated by delay of gratification. Conclusions Findings suggest that distressed prostate cancer patients may benefit from additional support managing the emotional aspects of medical decisions and weighing immediate versus delayed outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-96
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


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