Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2021

Thesis Advisor(s)

Crystal Park

Honors Major

Physiology and Neurobiology


Health Psychology


Chronic stressors due to cancer can cause a considerable amount of distress for individuals throughout their treatment process and even months to years after their cancer experience. The psychological health of this population post-treatment can therefore be measured by the presence or absence of distress or negative psychological responses as well as the presence or absence of positive psychological responses. Positive psychological responses include coping efforts that promote resilience and well-being. One such factor is benefit-finding, which could include “positive change in relationships, a greater appreciation of life and a change in life priorities” (Mols, 2009). Identifying positive coping strategies or resources that promote positive physiological responses, such as lowered cortisol stress levels, may have implications for future interventions.

This thesis study aims to examine the relationship between benefit finding and both physiological outcomes of stress, as assessed by hair cortisol levels, and psychological stress, as assessed by post-traumatic stress outcomes. It also sought to examine whether usage of certain resources, specifically emotion regulation, enhances the effect that benefit finding may have on physiological and psychological stress. Data was collected from 128 cancer survivors previously diagnosed with either prostate, colorectal, or breast cancer and within 4 months of anticipated end of treatment. Results showed that high degrees of benefit finding may lead to high levels of physiological stress and high levels of psychological stress, though those relationships are not statistically significant. Finally, emotion regulation acts as a moderator of the relationship between benefit finding and hair cortisol levels.