Cancer Patients With Good Mental Health Doing Much Better Than Expected

Two-thirds of current cancer patients and more than three-quarters of past cancer patients aged 50 and up are mentally prospering despite their illness, according to a study.

A large nationally representative study from researchers at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work revealed the findings that most cancer patients had ‘complete mental health’ and were happy and satisfied with their lives.

Mental health of Cancer Patients

“Cancer patients were doing much better than we had expected. Two-thirds met our very stringent criteria for ‘complete mental health’ which meant that they were happy and/or satisfied with their life on a daily or almost daily basis and they also reported very high levels of social and psychological well-being (e.g. having warm and trusting relationships with others, and reporting that their life has a sense of direction or meaning). Only those who were also free of mental illness including depression and anxiety disorders and without any substance dependence or suicidal thoughts in the past year were classified as being in complete mental health,” report Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, lead author of the study, and Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair and Director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging at the University of Toronto. “The news for cancer survivors was even better, with three-quarters living in complete mental health, which is a prevalence comparable to that of individuals with no cancer history.”  

Earlier difficulty and depression impact mental health

Co-author Keri West, a PhD student at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work reported “Among those with former or current cancer, the odds of complete mental health were higher for women, white, married, and older respondents, as well as those with higher income and those who did not have disabling pain nor functional limitations. We found that earlier difficulties cast a long shadow: those who had been physically abused during their childhood and those who had ever had depression or anxiety disorders were less likely to be in complete mental health.” “Clarifying the mental health trajectories of cancer patients may help to identify interventional targets in order to optimize psychosocial well-being in the course of illness and recovery,” said West.

Pathways to increase cancer patients’ Resistance and Recovery

The researchers looked at a nationally representative sample of Canadians aged 50 and up who had current cancer (n=438), past cancer (n=1,174), or no cancer history (n=9,279). Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health provided the data. The authors emphasize that the results are just correlational and that determining causality is impossible due to the survey’s cross-sectional and observational character. They emphasize the importance of future longitudinal studies to better understand which pathways increase cancer patients’ resistance and recovery. “These findings of incredible mental flourishing even in the context of cancer is a wonderful testament to the resiliency of patients and an encouraging message for patients, their families, and their health care providers” stated Fuller-Thomson.

Story Source: Materials provided by the University of Toronto. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference: Esme Fuller-Thomson, Keri J. West. Flourishing despite a cancer diagnosis: factors associated with complete mental health in a nationally representative sample of cancer patients aged 50 years and older. Aging & Mental Health, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1080/13607863.2018.1481926

Page citation: The University of Toronto. “Majority of current and former cancer patients age 50-plus are happy with their life.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2018. <>.

Help is here:

Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline Kiran (1800-599-0019)

Name of the Organisation: Indian Cancer Society The ICS is one of the first voluntary, non-profit, National Organization for Awareness, Detection, Cure, and Survivorship of those affected by this disease.
Website: Contact: email: Telephone: +91- 22-2413 9445 / 5
CANCER HELPLINE: 1800-22-1951

Leave a Reply