Cancer and mental disorders in a national community sample: findings from the national comorbidity survey

Psychother Psychosom. Jul-Aug 2004;73(4):235-42. doi: 10.1159/000077742.


Objective: To determine the association between cancer (past 12 months) and mental disorders (past 12 months) among community-dwelling adults.

Methods: Data were drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey (n = 5,877), a representative household sample of adults aged 15-54 years in the United States. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to determine the association between cancer and mental disorders, adjusting for differences in sociodemographic characteristics.

Results: Cancer was significantly associated with increased rates of major depression [odds ratio (OR) = 3.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.4-8.8], drug dependence (OR = 3.6, 95% CI = 1.3-9.8), simple phobia (OR = 2.5, 95% CI = 1.0-6.2) and agoraphobia (OR = 3.3, 95% CI = 1.0-10.4). These associations persisted after adjusting for major sociodemographic factors, and sex plays a significant role in the association between cancer diagnosis and mental disorder, with cancer diagnosis having a stronger influence on major depression and drug dependence in men than in women.

Conclusions: Clinicians and community health workers working with cancer survivors need to be not only alert for signs of clinical depression but also of co-occurring drug dependence and certain anxiety disorders so that appropriate referrals to mental health professionals can be made.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / classification
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Sampling Studies
  • United States / epidemiology