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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Role of Social Support for Physical Activity among Young Survivors of Breast Cancer

  • Author(s): Washington, Pamela K.
  • Advisor(s): Bloom, Joan R
  • et al.

BACKGROUND: There is strong evidence that physical activity mitigates negative psychosocial effects and sequelae associated with adjuvant chemotherapy among cancer survivors. Given the many benefits of physical activity in this population, it is important to understand the factors that influence continued participation post diagnosis. One possible determinant that has received little attention to date is the influence of social support. This study is unique in that it is the first to explore the role of social support for physical activity among young survivors through the use of mixed methods.

METHODS: Survey data (n=273) were used to determine actual levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity. These data were subsequently used to identify women of interest to participate in face-to-face qualitative interviews. Semi-structured interviews (n=31) were conducted with a subset of women from the quantitative sample. Participants were Bay Area women who were age 55 or less and premenopausal at the time of diagnosis and who also received adjuvant chemotherapy. Following qualitative analyses, hypotheses were developed to test the association between social support and obtaining recommended levels of physical activity through the use of logistic regression analyses using a sample of 273 women.

FINDINGS: Qualitative analyses indicated that women who have a partner with whom they engage in physical activity are more likely to adopt and maintain physical activity behaviors over time. Regression analyses provide evidence that women who have support specifically for physical activity are more likely to meet recommended activity guidelines (β=.030, OR=1.030 per unit of scale, p=.003, C.I.=1.01 - 1.05).

CONCLUSION: When considering correlates of physical activity, social support specific to physical activity may be important or even pivotal in assisting survivors to adopt and/or maintain participation in a given activity at recommended levels.

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