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Many Oncology Patients Are Lonely During COVID-19

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 -- More than half of oncology patients are experiencing loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they report higher symptom severity scores for all symptoms evaluated, according to a study published online April 27 in Cancer.

Christine Miaskowski, R.N., Ph.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues surveyed 606 oncology patients during the COVID-19 pandemic to evaluate the severity of loneliness, social isolation, and common symptoms (anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep disturbance, cognitive dysfunction, and pain).

The researchers found that 53.0 percent of the patients were categorized as lonely. Higher levels of social isolation as well as higher symptom severity scores for all symptoms evaluated were reported for the lonely group. Being unmarried, having higher levels of social isolation, and having higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms correlated with membership in the lonely group in the multivariate model.

"Patients with cancer, as well as survivors, need to realize that feelings of loneliness and social isolation are very common during the COVID-19 pandemic," Miaskowski said in a statement. "In addition to this sense of loneliness, they may be having feelings of anxiety, sadness, and fatigue, as well as problems sleeping and high rates of unrelieved pain -- all at the same time."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and health care industries.

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