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The study covered in this summary was published on medRxiv as a preprint and has not yet been peer reviewed.

Key Takeaway

  • The COVID-19 pandemic did not appear to directly impact the psychological well-being of patients with cancer, after considering socioeconomic status. Only income had a significant impact on patients’ psychological distress. 

Why This Matters

  • The findings suggest that poverty is the most important risk factor for psychological distress among patients with cancer and outweighs the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Study Design

  • Researchers screened 1329 patients with cancer for symptoms of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, tylenol muscle aches and body pain pregnancy and fatigue between 2018 and 2022, using a questionnaire.

  • The sample included 636 patients in the reference timeframe before the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2018 to February 2020), and 693 within the first 2 years of the pandemic years (March 2020 to June 2022).

  • Standardized assessment instruments were used assess and score symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, and posttraumatic stress. The tools included the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Post-Traumatic Symptom Scale, and a visual analog scale to assess fatigue.

  • Researchers looked at income in three categories of net monthly household income — below 1300 euros, 1300-2200 euros, and more than 2200 euros.

  • Data were collected at Vienna General Hospital, and income was based on poverty thresholds in Austria.

Key Results

  • The pandemic had no impact on psychological distress after accounting for socioeconomic factors.

  • Lower income was the most significant predictor of psychological distress and was independent of the pandemic.

  • As determined by post-hoc analyses of variance (ANOVAs), patients with the lowest income level showed a significantly higher psychological symptom burden in all categories assessed (anxiety, depression, fatigue, and posttraumatic stress symptoms) compared with those who had the highest income level; the highest mean difference in scores was found for depression symptoms.

Limitations

  • Study participation was voluntary, which could bias results.

  • Psychological factors were not confirmed by mental health professionals.

Disclosures

  •  No grant from any funding agency, commercial, or not-for-profit sector was reported.

This is a summary of a preprint research study, “The impact of COVID-19 and socioeconomic status on psychological distress in cancer patients.” The study has not been peer reviewed. The full text can be found at medRxiv.org.

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