Data from the National Health Interview Survey suggest that the utilization of mental health services among cancer survivors is low and unmet needs are high for some. However, to the authors' knowledge little is known regarding the prevalence and predictors of participation in health-related support groups.
A total of 9187 participants in the California Health Interview Survey Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CHIS-CAM) study completed a telephone interview in 2003 (1844 participants with cancer and 4951 participants with other chronic health problems). Participants were asked to describe previous/ current support group use, benefits of support group use, and physician involvement in decisions regarding support groups. Weighted logistic regression analyses were conducted using SUDAAN software to examine patterns of support group use.
The prevalence of support group use was found to be higher among cancer survivors (23.7%) than those with another chronic health condition (14.5%). Predictors of support group use were found to be similar across groups and included female gender, greater education, use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), depression, and anxiety. Age, health insurance, and presence of depression predicted support group use differently for cancer survivors and those with other conditions. The percentages of those perceiving support groups to be beneficial varied from 35.1% for those with skin cancer to 96% for those with cervical cancer. The percentage of participants reporting that their physician recommended a support group was low (10.2%).
Health-related support groups are used by nearly 1 in 4 cancer survivors, but levels of utilization differ across subgroups. An understanding of how cancer survivors use support groups highlights shortcomings in psychosocial care and suggests that additional efforts to overcome barriers to care are needed. Cancer 2007. Published 2007 by the American Cancer Society.