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Depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms in older cancer patients: a comparison across age groups

Authors

  • Miri Cohen

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Gerontology, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
    • Correspondence to: Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel. E-mail: cohenm@research.haifa.ac.il

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Abstract

Background

Previous studies have reported that older cancer patients experience lower psychological distress than younger patients, but most prior studies do not differentiate between age groups within the ‘older’ category.

Aim

The aim of this study was to assess the intensity of the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms among different age groups of older cancer patients.

Methods

Participants were composed of 321 cancer patients 60 years and older, who were divided into three age groups: 60–69, 70–79, and 80+ years. The participants answered the Brief Symptom Inventory-18, which included subscales for depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms and the cancer-related problem list, in addition to providing personal and cancer-related details.

Results

Depressive, anxiety, and somatic symptoms and cancer-related problems were lowest in the 70–79 years age group and highest in the 80+ years age group. Comparisons between pairs of groups showed significant differences between each of the groups in Brief Symptom Inventory total scores and between the 80+ years age group and the other two groups in regard to depressive symptoms and cancer-related problems. Differences, related to anxiety and somatic symptoms, were significant for the 70–79 year olds, in comparison with the youngest and oldest groups. Intensity of symptoms was explained by older age, higher number of cancer-related problems, female gender, and lower income.

Conclusion

Nonlinear relations exist between age and psychological symptoms, which is in line with the postponement of age-related health and functional decline in the modern era. These results suggest that the study of psychological reactions to cancer should examine differences between age groups among older cancer patients. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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