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Do Cancer Survivors Use Medications for Anxiety and Depression at a Higher Rate Than Those Without Cancer?

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Key Points

  • Medication for anxiety was taken by 6.8% of cancer survivors vs 8.6% of adults without cancer.
  • Medication for depression was taken by 14.1% vs 7.8%.

In a study of population-based data reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Hawkins et al found that adult cancer survivors receive medication for anxiety and depression at twice the rate of that in adults without cancer. The study involved data from the National Health Interview Survey for years 2010 to 2013 on 3,184 cancer survivors and 44,997 adults with no history of cancer who completed both the Sample Adult Core Questionnaire and the Adult Functioning and Disability Supplement components of the survey.

Use of Medication

Overall, medication was received by 16.8% of cancer survivors vs 8.6% of adults without cancer for anxiety (P < .001), 14.1% vs 7.8% for depression (P < .001), and 19.1% vs 10.4% for one or both of the conditions combined (P < .001). On the basis of these findings, it was estimated that 2.5 million cancer survivors were taking medication for anxiety or depression during the survey period studied.

Cancer survivor characteristics that were associated with higher rates of medication use for anxiety included age < 65 years old, female gender, non-Hispanic white race/ethnicity, having public insurance, having a usual source of medical care, and having multiple chronic health conditions. Survivor characteristics associated with higher rates of medication use for depression were similar to those for anxiety; insurance status was not a significant predictor, whereas greater use was found among survivors who were widowed, divorced, or separated.

The investigators concluded: “Cancer survivors in the United States reported medication use for anxiety and depression at rates nearly two times those reported by the general public, likely a reflection of greater emotional and physical burdens from cancer or its treatment.”

Nikki A. Hawkins, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the corresponding author of the Journal of Clinical Oncology article.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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