Psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on caregivers and adolescents and young adult survivors of childhood cancer

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2023 Jun;70(6):e30291. doi: 10.1002/pbc.30291. Epub 2023 Mar 23.


Background: Caregivers and adolescents and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors may be at greater psychosocial risk from the COVID-19 pandemic than healthy peers due to complex and traumatic medical histories. This study describes COVID-19-related event exposures, impact, and distress among a large sample of caregivers and AYA cancer survivors and the relationship of these variables to demographic and cancer characteristics.

Procedure: From May 2020 to December 2021, 422 caregivers and 531 AYA survivors completed the COVID-19 Exposures and Family Impact Survey (CEFIS) and CEFIS-AYA, respectively. Total COVID-19-related exposures, average COVID-19-related impact, and COVID-19-related distress were calculated. Conventional content analysis was used to analyze free-text responses about the negative and positive effects of COVID-19.

Results: Caregivers and AYA reported an average of 7.4-7.8 COVID-19 exposures to pandemic-related events and a slightly negative impact of COVID-19 across psychosocial domains, with some positive impacts reported. COVID-19-related distress was moderate and clinically meaningful (4.9-5.2/10) for AYA and caregivers. Racial and ethnically minoritized AYA and caregivers reported higher COVID-19-related distress than non-Hispanic white caregivers. For AYA, distress was also higher among female, college-age (18-22 years), and long-term survivors compared with males, younger AYA, White and those recently off treatment. CEFIS outcomes remained relatively stable over time.

Conclusions: COVID-19 had a significant and consistent negative impact on caregivers and AYA survivors. Racial and ethnically minoritized families and female, college-age, and long-term AYA survivors may require additional psychosocial support. Assessing for COVID-19 impact and distress is important in pediatric oncology to evaluate adjustment and plan targeted interventions.

Keywords: COVID-19; adolescent; cancer; caregivers; psycho-oncology; young adult.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Cancer Survivors* / psychology
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms* / psychology
  • Pandemics
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Young Adult