Do palliative care research priorities match those for its care? A journals content analysis 2021-22

J. Abel*, A. Kellehear, M. Garrido, E. Hodges, J. Sawyer, C. Peterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most international definitions of palliative care in the worlds of policy and practice emphasize the ‘holistic’ dimensions of end-of-life experience and its care.

To discover whether the definitions of palliative care are reflected in the field’s research priorities.

Design and Setting
A content analysis of two research journals, one British and the other American, is described to provide a simple indicative answer to this question. The abstracts of 609 research papers drawn from these two journals between the years 2021–22 were examined thematically.

The categories of physical alone, physical, and psychological, and psychological alone, when combined accounted for 69% of all research reports. The broader social aspects of care, outside of communication and advance care planning, were largely unaddressed. The social domain accounted for 29%, but 78% of this figure was about advance care planning and communication. Likewise, the role of spirituality, present in most of the definitions, was under researched and under reported. Even within this context, the results were disappointing. Spiritual care accounted for only 2% of reports.

Examination of research publications of two major palliative care research journals showed a significant overemphasis on symptom management and health service delivery assessments. This significant dearth of investigation in the major areas of social and spiritual domains is a call to action for researchers, grant making bodies, researchers, ethics committees, and journal editorial teams.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-360
Number of pages9
JournalProgress in Palliative Care
Issue number6
Early online date12 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes

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