Purpose: A population-based study was conducted in order to examine the characteristics of family members of cancer patients in comparison with the general population and also to evaluate the psychosocial impact of cancer patients on their family members.
Materials and methods: From the Fourth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (KNHANES IV) (2007-2009) dataset, we identified 460 cancer patients and then selected family members of these patients who were aged 20 years or older (n=565). The control group was sampled from members of families without a cancer patient with matching for sex and age (n=2,260). Serial conditional logistic regression models were used for comparison of characteristics between family members of cancer patients and subjects in the control group.
Results: Family members of cancer patients were less employed (57.9% vs. 63.0%, p<0.001), more functionally limited (20.2% vs. 16.5%, p=0.032), and had lower self-rated health (p=0.023) compared with sex and age-matched control subjects. They also had a significantly higher level of stress (79.7% vs. 76.1%, p=0.008), history of depression (12.9% vs. 10.2%, p=0.035), and current depressive symptoms (5.5% vs. 3.5%, p=0.038). However, higher physical activity was reported in family members of cancer patients (13.6% vs. 9.6%, p=0.003) than in control subjects. The presence of a cancer patient in the family showed an association with current depressive symptoms (odds ratio, 1.62; 95% confidence interval, 1.05 to 2.48; p=0.028), however, the association was no longer significant after adjustment for household income, education level, and employment status (p=0.304).
Conclusion: Family members of cancer patients are more susceptible to depression, probably due to adverse change in socioeconomic status. Use of multidisciplinary approaches for promotion of psychological health and well-being is essential.
Keywords: Cancer patients; Family; KNHANES; Neoplasms.