Emotion regulation and psychological distress in cancer survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Emotion regulation may affect the levels of psychological distress of cancer survivors, but inconsistencies exist among studies regarding the direction of this effect. The systematic review and meta-analysis sought to estimate the associations between emotion regulation patterns (repression, suppression, experiential avoidance and cognitive reappraisal) and psychological distress among cancer survivors. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria for systematic review, and seven studies focussing on suppression were included in the meta-analysis. The systematic review pointed to a marked variability in associations among the emotion regulation patterns and psychological distress. The three meta-regressions of the relationships between suppression and psychological distress found significant fixed- and random-effect sizes (except marginal significance of a random-effect model for partial correlation). Subgroup analysis showed no moderation effect of time since diagnosis or study quality, but a significant difference (fixed-effect model only, p = 0.005) was found between correlative studies and those controlling for confounders. The current study suggests that suppression is related to elevated levels of psychological distress among cancer survivors, although large inconsistencies exist among studies and publication bias could not be ruled out. Further studies with large samples and a consistent approach are thus required to evaluate the associations of emotion regulation patterns and psychological distress.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalStress and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • cancer survivors
  • emotion regulation
  • meta-analysis
  • psychological distress
  • systematic review

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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