Coping with death anxiety: help-seeking and social support among gay men with various HIV diagnoses.

Academic Article


  • UNLABELLED: OBJECTIVE, DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: We examined sources of help-seeking related to worries or concerns about death and dying and the effects of social support on death anxiety in a longitudinal sample of gay men (n = 52). RESULTS: Friends and primary sexual partners were the most frequent sources sought in dealing with death concerns for all groups of respondents (HIV-negative, HIV-positive asymptomatic, and HIV-positive symptomatic). Men experiencing HIV symptoms were more likely than HIV-negative and asymptomatic men to use formal sources of support (medical, psychological). Although HIV-positive symptomatic men did not differ from HIV-negative men in terms of help-seeking from family sources, they were significantly more likely to seek the help of family members than HIV-positive asymptomatic men. All three HIV groups showed significantly different mean levels of death anxiety, with HIV-negative men reporting the lowest level and HIV-positive symptomatic men the highest. Among HIV-negative men, only mental health sources of support (psychologists and clergy) were significantly related to death anxiety, measured 1 year later (beta = -0.35). These sources of support were also associated with death anxiety among HIV-positive asymptomatic men, but in the opposite direction (beta = 0.26). Contrary to expectations, men experiencing HIV symptoms benefited most from family support (beta = -0.31), although peer (beta = -0.19) and medical (beta = -0.28) support sources were also prominent. CONCLUSIONS: Thus, while earlier research found peers to be the most common and effective source of support among gay men, this study suggests that obtaining support from family may become particularly important as one approaches death. The effectiveness of social support in reducing death anxiety appears to vary over the course of the disease from asymptomatic to symptomatic. HIV-symptomatic men obtain support from a wide range of helpers, including medical and peer supports and family.
  • Authors

  • Catania, JA
  • Turner, Heather
  • Choi, KH
  • Coates, TJ
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • September 1992
  • Published In

  • AIDS  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Attitude to Death
  • HIV Infections
  • Homosexuality
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Support
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 1388913
  • Start Page

  • 999
  • End Page

  • 1005
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 9