Mental Health Burden of German Cancer Patients before and after the Outbreak of COVID-19 : Predictors of Mental Health Impairment

The aim of this study was to analyze individual changes in cancer patients' mental health before and after the COVID-19 outbreak, and to explore predictors of mental health impairment. Over a two-week period (16-30 March 2020), 150 cancer patients in Germany participated in this study. Validated instruments assessed demographic and medical data, depression and anxiety symptoms (PHQ-2, GAD-2), distress (DT), and health status (EQ-5D-3L). All instruments were adapted to measure the individual mental health before the COVID-19 outbreak. COVID-19-related fear, trust in governmental actions to face COVID-19, and the subjective level of information regarding COVID-19 were measured. Cancer patients showed a significant increase in depression and anxiety symptoms and distress, while health status deteriorated since the COVID-19 outbreak. Increased depression and generalized anxiety symptoms were predicted by COVID-19-related fear. Trust in governmental actions to face COVID-19 and COVID-19-related fear predicted increases in distress. Higher subjective levels of information predicted less increasing anxiety symptoms and distress. Present data suggests that cancer patients experienced a significant increase in mental health burden since the COVID-19 outbreak. Observed predictors of mental health impairment and protective factors should be addressed, and appropriate interventions established, to maintain mental health of cancer patients during the pandemic.

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