HomeHealth ConditionsCancerCan cancer patients' quality of life be improved by watching Disney movies?

Can cancer patients’ quality of life be improved by watching Disney movies?

A clinical trial assesses the effect of watching Disney movies on the quality of life of women with gynecologic cancer. 

Research shows that music has a positive effect on quality of life and reducing anxiety, fatigue, and distress in cancer patients. Studies also identify that when shown to children, Disney movies emphasise the importance of family and increase prosocial behaviour. Due to this previous research and the musical component of Disney movies, researchers from the Medical University in Vienna, Austria decided to investigate the benefits of Disney movies on quality of life.

The journey from a cancer diagnosis to treatment and recovery is one that can severely affect quality of life. Worries about the diagnosis, side effects of treatment, and financial uncertainty are among just a few trepidations documented to affect people’s quality of life. Although a common treatment for various types of cancer, chemotherapy is demanding both physically and mentally, causing concern for women with gynecologic cancer. Despite this, 90% of women with gynecologic cancer believe in the importance of maintaining a positive attitude during treatment. Researchers recruited women with advanced ovarian cancer to assess the effect of watching Disney movies on emotional functioning, social functioning and fatigue status.

Published in the JAMA Network Open Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study included fifty-six women with fifty completing the full trial. All women were over the age of eighteen and planned to complete six full chemotherapy cycles with either carboplatin or paclitaxel (both chemotherapy drugs). Half of the women were shown Disney movies throughout the six cycles of chemotherapy, and the other half were not. Eight movies were available to watch including; Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Aristocats, Robin Hood, and The Little Mermaid. Movies with particularly sad scenes such as Dumbo and Bambi were excluded from the trial. 

The women completed standardised questionnaires from the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer before and after each chemotherapy cycle. According to the questionnaire results, the women who watched Disney movies during chemotherapy; felt less tense, felt less worried, had fewer fatigue symptoms and felt less encroachment on their family and social activities. Patients felt less helpless due to fewer symptoms of exhaustion, irritability and frustration.

The positive effect of Disney movies is thought to be due to the mix of uplifting songs and exciting storylines. The movies have an underlying theme about accepting change and main characters overcome difficult life challenges leading them to personal growth. They learn to accept support from peers, friends and family. These themes are perhaps why an increase in social functioning scores is seen in the trial results. The elements of distraction and escapism must also be considered.

Although the results from this study were positive, it only assessed a small number of female patients. It must also be acknowledged that watching Disney movies may have a detrimental effect on women who have deceased children or have been unable to conceive children. Further studies are needed to compare the effect of Disney movies against other genres of movies. However, as an affordable and internationally recognisable brand, Disney movies may offer improved quality of life to some cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Written by Helen Massy, BSc.


EurekAlert!. 2020. Effect On Quality Of Life Of Watching Disney Movies During Chemotherapy. [online] Available at: <https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-05/jn-eoq050720.php> [Accessed 12 May 2020].

Pils, S., Ott, J., Reinthaller, A., Steiner, E., Springer, S. and Ristl, R., 2020. Effect of Viewing Disney Movies During Chemotherapy on Self-Reported Quality of Life Among Patients With Gynecologic Cancer. JAMA Network Open, 3(5), p.e204568.

Pisu, M., Kenzik, K., Rim, S., Funkhouser, E., Bevis, K., Alvarez, R., Cantuaria, G., Rocconi, R. and Martin, M., 2017. Values and worries of ovarian cancer patients. Gynecologic Oncology, 147(2), pp.433-438.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 


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