A comparison of the psychosocial aspects of AIDS and cancer-related bereavement

Brian Kelly, Beverley Raphael, Dixie Statham, Michael Ross, Heather Eastwood, Susan McLean, Bill O'Loughlin, Kim Brittain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: This study compares the psychological symptoms and bereavement distress of individuals bereaved by AIDS with a group bereaved by a cancer death, and addresses the question of whether an AIDS death is associated with a higher rate of adverse psychosocial factors that may increase risk of psychological morbidity in the bereaved individuals. Method: AIDS (n = 28) and cancer (n = 30) bereaved individuals (all within 3 months of the bereavement) completed measures of psychological morbidity and measures addressing a range of other adverse factors, e.g., number of losses, levels of social support and stigma. Results: The cancer and AIDS bereaved were essentially similar on all psychological symptom measures. The AIDS group reported lower levels of social support in response to the bereavement than cancer bereaved individuals; a greater number of bereavements, were more likely to conceal the cause of death from significant others including their own family and perceived, in some instances, a greater level of rejection from others. The AIDS group reported higher levels of social support from friends than from family. Conclusions: At three months following bereavement, AIDS and cancer bereaved were similar in levels of distress. While this may change with the progress of grief over time, it suggests essentially similar early bereavement responses. Those bereaved by AIDS reported a range of other adverse factors such as a greater number of losses, lower social support, stigma, and less open disclosure of the cause of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996


  • AIDS
  • HIV infection
  • bereavement
  • cancer
  • palliative care


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