Psychological health in siblings who lost a brother or sister to cancer 2 to 9 years earlier

Authors

  • Alexandra Eilegård,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Women's and Child's Health, Childhood Cancer Research Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Sophiahemmet University College, Stockholm, Sweden
    • Division of Oncology–Pathology, Department of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Gunnar Steineck,

    1. Division of Oncology, Department of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
    2. Division of Oncology–Pathology, Department of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Tommy Nyberg,

    1. Division of Oncology–Pathology, Department of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Ulrika Kreicbergs

    1. Division of Women's and Child's Health, Childhood Cancer Research Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
    2. Sophiahemmet University College, Stockholm, Sweden
    3. Division of Oncology–Pathology, Department of Clinical Cancer Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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Correspondence to: Clinical Cancer Epidemiology Z5:U1, Karolinska University Hospital, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: Alexandra.Eilegard@ki.se

Abstract

Background

The objective of this study was to assess long-term psychological distress in siblings who lost a brother or sister to cancer 2 to 9 years earlier, as compared with a control group of non-bereaved siblings from the general population.

Methods

During 2009, we conducted a nationwide follow-up study in Sweden by using an anonymous study-specific questionnaire. Siblings who had lost a brother or sister to cancer between the years 2000 and 2007 and also a control group of non-bereaved siblings from the general population were invited to participate. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was used to measure psychological distress, and to test for differences in the ordinal outcome responses between the groups, we used Wilcoxon–Mann–Whitney rank-sum test.

Results

Among the bereaved siblings, 174/240 (73%) participated and 219/293 (75%) among the non-bereaved. Self-assessed low self-esteem (p = 0.002), difficulties falling asleep (p = 0.005), and low level of personal maturity (p = 0.007) at follow-up were more prevalent among bereaved siblings. However, anxiety (p = 0.298) and depression (p = 0.946), according to HADS, were similar.

Conclusion

Bereaved siblings are at increased risk of low self-esteem, low level of personal maturity and difficulties falling asleep as compared with non-bereaved peers. Yet, the bereaved were not more likely to report anxiety or depression. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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