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Lynne Eldridge MD

Cancer Related Financial Stress Affects Psychological Well-Being

By November 6, 2012

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We don't really need a study to tell us that financial concerns related to cancer can affect people emotionally. But then again, it's good to have a reminder. Plus, saying it out loud offers a chance to point at a few possible solutions.


Researchers checked on people living with lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer in the Ireland National Cancer Registry. They then came up with a few definitions. "Financial strain" being the impact cancer has upon the family's ability to make ends meet. And "financial stress" meaning the feelings someone holds about their financial situation after their cancer diagnosis. They compared this with psychological well-being - feelings of depression, distress and anxiety.

Among the group evaluated, 49% reported increased financial stress, and 32%, increased financial strain. 36% of patients admitted to depression, 29% felt anxiety, and 29% experienced distress.

When compared, depression was 3 times as common in people who were experiencing financial stress and strain. Severe depression was 4 times more common in people experiencing financial stress and 8 times more likely among those experiencing financial strain.

Clearly, financial stress and strain can have a negative psychological effect on people living with cancer.

This is important for medical professionals to be aware of as they address the emotional concerns of cancer patients. It's also important for loved ones of cancer patients to understand. If you have a loved one experiencing financial stress and strain, is there something you can do to help ease their burden? Perhaps plan a fundraiser? Or, if financial support isn't possible, at least be a shoulder as they experience the emotions that come with such stressors?

As a last reminder, depression - no matter the cause - occurs far too often in people living with cancer. If you feel down more than you think is normal due to your situation, talk to your doctor.

Photo: Flickr.com, user SAN_DRINO


Sharp, L., Carsin, A., and A. Timmons. Associations between cancer-related financial stress and strain and psychological well-being among individuals living with cancer. Psychooncology. 2012 Mar 12. (Epub ahead of print)

December 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm
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