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Med J Aust. 2010 Sep 6;193(5 Suppl):S62-7.

Is psychological distress in people living with cancer related to the fact of diagnosis, current treatment or level of disability? Findings from a large Australian study.

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National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.



To investigate whether the observed elevated levels of psychological distress in cancer survivors relate specifically to aspects of cancer diagnosis, to treatment or to disability.


Self-reported questionnaire data on demographic, health and lifestyle factors and mental health from 89574 Australian men and women aged 45 years or older, sampled from the Medicare database for the 45 and Up Study from 1 February 2006 to 30 April 2008. Logistic regression was used to examine the risk of high levels of psychological distress in relation to cancer diagnosis and disability, adjusting for age, sex, income and education.


High psychological distress (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale score > or = 22).


Overall, 7.5% of participants had high levels of psychological distress. Among cancer survivors, the median time since diagnosis was 7.3 years. Compared with people without cancer, the odds ratios (95% CIs) for psychological distress were: 1.17 (1.09-1.26) in people reporting having had any cancer apart from non-melanoma skin cancer; 1.34 (1.08-1.67) in those with cancer diagnosed in the previous year; 1.53 (1.33-1.76) for those reporting treatment for cancer in the previous month and 1.11 (1.03-1.19) for those with cancer but without recent treatment. Using individuals with neither cancer nor disability as the reference group, the adjusted odds ratio (95% CI) for psychological distress was 6.51 (5.95-7.12) in those reporting significant disability but no cancer, 1.14(1.04-1.24) in those without disability but with cancer and 5.81(4.88-6.91) in those with both cancer and disability.


The risk of psychological distress in individuals with cancer relates much more strongly to their level of disability than it does to the cancer diagnosis itself.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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