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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • quality of life;
  • mental health;
  • bereaved family

Abstract

Objective

This study specifically aimed to compare quality of life (QOL) and mental health in bereaved family members of patients with cancer with that of the general population and to examine factors associated with QOL and mental health in this population.

Design

A nationwide multicenter, cross-sectional survey was administered to the bereaved family members of patients with terminal cancer.

Setting

Thirty-three palliative care centers designated by the Ministry of Health and Welfare participated in this study.

Participants

The participants in this study were 501 bereaved family members of patients with terminal cancer and matched control individuals from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Measurement

EQ-5D and several questions used in Korean National Health And Nutrition Examination Survey were used in to measure health-related QOL and mental health.

Results

Health-related QOL, as determined by EQ-5D, was significantly lower in bereaved family members than in controls (0.88 ± 0.20 vs 0.93 ± 0.13, p = 0.002). Bereaved family members experienced more frequent episodes of depression (33.1% vs 12.5%, p < 0.001) and suicidal thoughts (31.4% vs 16.4%, p < 0.001) during the previous year than did controls. Female sex, lower income, spousal relationship, and longer duration of survival after palliative care referral were negatively correlated with health-related QOL. Younger age and higher mental burden of caregiving were associated with a higher risk of impaired mental health.

Discussion

Our results confirm that bereaved family members of patients with cancer have lower health-related QOL and mental health than the general population. Healthcare providers should focus more attention on this vulnerable group, and various support programs should be developed to improve their health-related QOL. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.