The implications of cancer survivorship for spousal employment

J Cancer Surviv. 2011 Sep;5(3):226-34. doi: 10.1007/s11764-011-0175-9. Epub 2011 Mar 3.


Background: The purpose of this research was to estimate employment effects for spouses of cancer survivors who were working at the time of the cancer diagnosis.

Methods: Spouses of cancer survivors were drawn from the Penn State Cancer Survivor Survey. Comparable spouses of individuals without cancer were drawn from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics. The final sample included 827 spouses of cancer survivors (542 husbands, 285 wives) and 2,766 spouses of individuals without cancer (1,459 husbands, 1,307 wives). Three employment outcomes were studied 2-6 years after diagnosis: whether working, whether working full time (35+ hours per week), and usual hours per week. We used propensity scores to match cases to controls 3:1.

Results: Wives of cancer survivors had a lower probability (-7.5 percentage points) of being employed 2-6 years after diagnosis (p = 0.036). They were slightly more likely to be working full time, while averaging 1.1 fewer hours per week overall, but these effects were not statistically significant. Cancer's effect on husbands was not significant for any of the employment outcomes. However, if survivor wives and husbands were working at follow-up, they had more than twice the odds of working full-time (wives OR = 2.18, p = 0.0004; husbands OR = 2.65, p = 0.012) and worked more hours per week than other spouses (wives 1.9, p = 0.041; husbands 1.5, p = 0.04).

Conclusions: The implications to cancer survivors and their spouses of these results is that the employment of survivor spouses, especially of wives, is somewhat reshaped by cancer in the medium to long run. However, there is little or no effect on aggregate hours worked by spouses who were employed at diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Employment / psychology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Spouses* / psychology
  • Survival Rate
  • Survivors* / psychology