Depression risk high among spouses of cancer patients
Spouses of cancer patients are at an elevated risk of major depressive disorder (MDD), a new study has found.
The study included 16,936 married couples with one spouse having cancer, and a comparator group of 168,831 couples where both spouses were cancer-free. Majority of the participants were between 40 and 64 years of age.
Spouses of patients with cancer but without MDD were at a slightly but significantly greater risk of developing MDD themselves as compared to spouses of cancer-free participants (hazard ratio [HR], 1.18, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.03–1.34).
Notably, the effect was stronger in spouses of patients with MDD but without cancer (HR, 2.10, 95 percent CI, 1.50–3.61). Moreover, spouses of patients with both MDD and cancer suffered the greatest risk estimate as compared to spouses of people with neither condition (HR, 2.32, 95 percent CI, 1.50–3.61).
However, compared to cancer patients themselves, spouses were less than half as likely to develop MDD (HR, 0.42, 95 percent CI, 0.36–0.48).
Stratified analyses showed that male spouses aged ≥65 years were more resilient to MDD than their middle-aged counterparts of the same sex (HR, 0.69, 95 percent CI, 0.55–0.88). On the other hand, spouses of patients younger than 40 years of age suffered from excess MDD risk, with an estimate of borderline significance (HR, 1.23, 95 percent CI, 1.00–1.49). Female spouses also tended to be at greater MDD risk, though statistical significance was not investigated.