Hannah Dale and colleagues from the University of St Andrews have found some key markers for vulnerability to psychological problems in men experiencing cancer. Their results will be presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology in Glasgow.
A group of 127 men aged 18 and over with a cancer diagnosis were recruited through the National Health Service and cancer charities between April 2009 and April 2011.
The participants were assessed for demographic factors, social support, anxiety and depression, and distress (Distress Thermometer). Data for cancer patients from the Scottish Longitudinal Study were examined to make sure the sample was representative of men with cancer as a whole.
The findings indicated that participants who were separated and divorced had lower social support and greater depression. Younger age was related to higher anxiety, and distress. Living in an area of higher deprivation indicated greater depression and anxiety. Social support was also a key indicator of psychological health.
Given these findings, say it is important to target those at greatest risk of psychological problems following a diagnosis of cancer for psychosocial support.
Hannah Dale says: "Men typically have smaller networks than women and often rely on their wives for support. Some men who are separated or divorced lack such support, which can leave them more vulnerable to depression.
"Other findings suggest that age and living in an area of higher deprivation are associated with men with cancer being more vulnerable to poor psychosocial health. More research is needed to confirm these findings, but this study highlights an area that has historically been neglected in the literature."
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