A review of the construct of demoralization: history, definitions, and future directions for palliative care

Sophie Robinson, David Kissane, Joanne Elizabeth Brooker, Susan Burney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOther

56 Citations (Scopus)


Demoralization has been the subject of discussion in relation to end-of-life care. It is characterized by hopelessness and helplessness due to a loss of purpose and meaning. The purpose of this review was to consolidate the conceptual understanding of demoralization and argue for its existence as a psychiatric syndrome. The history of the construct is explored, including the nature of existential distress and related psychological conditions that precipitate demoralization. Recent definitions of demoralization are described and differentiated from similar constructs. Future directions are highlighted, specifically in relation to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of demoralization in palliative care. Overall, demoralization is a clinically useful construct for those facing existential threat, guiding the clinician toward efforts to restore morale, meaning, and purpose.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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