Working cancer survivors' physical and mental characteristics compared to cancer-free workers in Japan: a nationwide general population-based study

J Cancer Surviv. 2021 Dec;15(6):912-921. doi: 10.1007/s11764-020-00984-7. Epub 2021 Jan 12.


Purpose: This study compared working cancer survivors' self-rated health status (SRHS), physical functional capacity, depressive symptoms, and happiness to those of cancer-free workers.

Methods: A nationwide general population-based cross-sectional study on a sample of Japanese was conducted. Prevalence of deteriorated SRHS, restricted physical functional capacity, depressive symptoms, and perceived happiness were compared between working cancer survivors and cancer-free workers with multivariable logistic regression analysis adjusted for age and sociodemographic and health-related backgrounds.

Results: Of the 28,311 male and 26,068 female workers, 977 (3.5%) and 1267 (4.9%) were cancer survivors, respectively. Working cancer survivors reported deteriorated SRHS more frequently than cancer-free workers: 21.3% vs. 13.8%, multivariable-adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval), 1.64 (1.39-1.95) for men, 23.8% vs. 17.5%, 1.34 (1.16-1.54) for women. Restricted physical functional capacity was reported more frequently in working cancer survivors than cancer-free workers: 6.8% vs. 2.6%, 1.76 (1.34-2.32) for men, 4.9% vs. 2.0%, 2.06 (1.56-2.71) for women. No significant difference was found for depressive symptoms: 21.6% vs. 22.9% in men, 30.0% vs. 28.5% in women. Working cancer survivors felt happiness more frequently than cancer-free survivors in men (77.3% vs. 71.7%, 1.21 (1.01-1.45)) but not in women (76.1% vs. 74.9%).

Conclusions: Working cancer survivors had worse SRHS and more restricted physical functional capacity than cancer-free workers. In men, working cancer survivors felt happiness more frequently than cancer-free workers.

Implications for cancer survivors: Continuous support to improve cancer survivors' SRHS and physical functional capacity would be necessary even while they are working.

Keywords: Cancer survivors; Depressive symptoms; Happiness; Physical functional capacity; Self-rated health status; Work.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Survivors*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Neoplasms*
  • Survivors