The association of depression and pain with health-related quality of life, disability, and health care use in cancer patients

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2010 Sep;40(3):327-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.12.023. Epub 2010 Jun 26.


Context: Pain and depression are two of the most prevalent and treatable cancer-related symptoms, each present in at least 20%-30% of oncology patients.

Objective: To determine the associations of pain and depression with health-related quality of life (HRQL), disability, and health care use in cancer patients.

Methods: The Indiana Cancer Pain and Depression study is a randomized clinical trial comparing telecare management vs. usual care for patients with cancer-related pain and/or clinically significant depression. In this article, baseline data on patients enrolled from 16 urban or rural community-based oncology practices are analyzed to test the associations of pain and depression with HRQL, disability, and health care use.

Results: Of the 405 participants, 32% had depression only, 24% pain only, and 44% both depression and pain. The average Hopkins Symptom Checklist 20-item depression score in the 309 depressed participants was 1.64 (on 0-4 scale), and the average Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) severity score in the 274 participants with pain was 5.2 (on 0-10 scale), representing at least moderate levels of symptom severity. Symptom-specific disability was high, with participants reporting an average of 16.8 of the past 28 days (i.e., 60% of their days in the past four weeks) in which they were either confined to bed (5.6 days) or had to reduce their usual activities by 50% (11.2 days) because of pain or depression. Moreover, 176 (43%) participants reported being unable to work because of health-related reasons. Depression and pain had both individual and additive adverse associations with quality of life. Most patients were currently not receiving care from a mental health or pain specialist.

Conclusion: Depression and pain are prevalent and disabling across a wide range of types and phases of cancer, commonly co-occur, and have additive adverse effects. Enhanced detection and management of this disabling symptom dyad is warranted.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Indiana / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Telemedicine


  • Analgesics
  • Antidepressive Agents