The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Left Cancer Patients Feeling Lonely and Depressed, Study Finds

Cancer patients are feeling especially lonely and depressed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. In this survey study, administered in late May 2020, researchers assessed 606 cancer patients in terms of the severity of loneliness, social isolation, and related symptoms – such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep disturbance, cognitive dysfunction and pain.   According to the results, over half (53%) of patients were found to be in the lonely group, which was higher than the range reported prior to the pandemic (32-47%). About a third had moderately high degrees of loneliness, and 5.3 percent reported high levels of depression. “We found that oncology patients were experiencing a deep sense of loneliness,” said first author Christine Miaskowski, RN, PhD, a professor in the UCSF School of Nursing via a press release. “For these patients, the burden of their symptoms is extremely high, and oncology clinicians can suggest a number of strategies to help them,” she said. “Patients should be encouraged to maintain contact with family and friends, and structure their daily routines when possible, through outdoor activities for example, as well as to maintain a healthy diet and sufficient sleep. These suggestions might mitigate some of the negative effects of loneliness.”