More Depression for Some
I hope that this study did not cost a lot of money. It is also good to have data to support a belief, but this is totally already well known and a bit of common sense would educate anyone about these issues. This study from researchers at three universities indicates that mothers and single women with breast cancer have higher levels of depression than others. The informed response to reading this sentence would be: "DUH?!"
Single women worry appropriately about caring for themselves and managing all their medical needs. Who can drive them home from chemotherapy? What if they are ill and could use some help around the house? Of course, being married or partnered is absolutely no guarantee of support, but that is the usual assumption. In my practice, I have known many single women who had better support and assistance from their friends than many married women have from their families. My reaction to this part is that it is dangerous to make any assumptions, and it is important for caregivers to ask about support systems for everyone.
The second piece of this report is about mothers being more depressed. Again, that is totally obvious, appropriate, and understandable. When I, at that time a single mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time, my older daughter was in college, and my younger daughter was 12. My only immediate, terrified and very distressed worry was what would happen to them if I died. Every parent whom I have ever known shares this terror.
So.....here is the start of an article from The New York Times and then a link:
NOVEMBER 14, 2011, 10:45 AM
More Depression for Mothers and Singles With Breast Cancer
By TARA PARKER-POPE
Women who have children living at home and single women have higher levels of depression in the months after treatment than other breast cancer patients, new research shows.
The findings, from a study of 225 women undergoing radiation treatment at nine clinics in Missouri, offers a glimpse into the emotional toll of breast cancer, suggesting that some women face greater psychological challenges in the months after treatment ends. The study, published in the journal Psychology & Health, was conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri, Texas A&M and Tulane University.
To measure differences in depression, women completed questionnaires that resulted in a depression score. The study showed that while all women with a breast cancer diagnosis experience psychological stress, certain women are at greater risk for ongoing depression. Having children living at home, being single or having low income were all risk factors for depression among breast cancer patients during the year after treatment.
One explanation for differences in depression levels may have to do with the amount of emotional and practical support women receive at the time of diagnosis and during and after treatment. It appears that the women who do best are those with husbands or partners, perhaps because they can offer women continuing emotional and practical support. Women with breast cancer who have children at home may face more logistical challenges coping with treatment schedules and side effects and juggling the daily responsibilities of child-rearing, compared with similar women who don't have children at home.
Although both high- and low-income women had similar levels of depression during the treatment period, low-income women showed more depression after treatment. The explanation may be that low-income women had more worries about missed work time or medical bills related to breast cancer.