Depression Contributes to Health Decline Seen in Cancer Caregivers

HealthDay News — Depression is known to be linked to worsening physical health, and this may be especially true for cancer caregivers, according to a study published online June 29 in Cancer.

Kelly Shaffer, PhD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues analyzed responses from 664 caregivers who answered American Cancer Society surveys. Specifically, the researchers looked for changes in participants’ health from 2 to 8 years after their loved ones’ cancer diagnosis.

Two years after the diagnoses, the caregivers’ health was slightly better than the national average. However, their health declined a small but notable amount over the next 6 years, the researchers found. Depression appeared to be the only predictor of worsening physical health. In fact, the health of those with significant signs of depression declined twice as fast as those with average symptoms.

“Identifying caregivers in need, and connecting these caregivers to effective and accessible psychosocial services, are imperative next steps to improve comprehensive care for families facing cancer,” Shaffer said in a news release from the American Cancer Society.

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Shaffer K, Kim Y, Carver C, et al; Depressive symptoms predict cancer caregivers’ physical health decline. WOL. ]published online June 29, 2017] Accessed July 5, 2017. doi:10.1002/cncr.30835