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      Racial and ethnic variations in caregiving-related physical, emotional, and financial strain during COVID-19 among those caring for adult cancer patients

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          Cancer caregiving is shown to be a burdensome experience in typical times. The purpose of this study was to describe cancer caregivers’ emotional, physical, and financial strain during the COVID-19 pandemic and compared to preCOVID-19, and explore racial and ethnic variations in caregiver strain.


          We conducted a cross-sectional online survey using Lucid, LLC, incorporating quotas for race, ethnicity, gender and age. Caregivers had to be adults living in the USA and currently providing unpaid care to an adult cancer patient (i.e., during COVID-19) and prior to the pandemic. We assessed the caregivers’ emotional, physical, and financial strain and asked them to compare to preCOVID-19 caregiving. Analyses included descriptive and linear regression adjusting for sociodemographic and caregiving-related variables.


          A total of 285 caregivers met eligibility, and most were nonHispanic white (72.3%) and female (59.6%). Based on a scale of “1: Much lower” to “5: Much higher”, the financial, physical and emotional strain/stress experienced by caregivers compared to preCOVID-19 was, on average, 3.52 (SD: 0.82; range: 1–5) for financial strain, 3.61 (SD: 0.86; range: 1–5) for physical strain, and 3.88 (SD: 0.89; range: 1–5) for emotional stress. NonHispanic black caregivers were significantly more likely than nonHispanic white caregivers to indicate that caregiving-related financial strain was higher than preCOVID-19. Moreover, Hispanic caregivers compared to nonHispanic white caregivers reported caregiving-related emotional stress was higher than preCOVID-19.


          These findings suggest a need to be attentive to racial and ethnic variations in emotional and financial strain and provide targeted support in clinical care and via public policy during a public health crisis.

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          Most cited references 26

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          Cancer statistics, 2020

          Each year, the American Cancer Society estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths that will occur in the United States and compiles the most recent data on population-based cancer occurrence. Incidence data (through 2016) were collected by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program; the National Program of Cancer Registries; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. Mortality data (through 2017) were collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2020, 1,806,590 new cancer cases and 606,520 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States. The cancer death rate rose until 1991, then fell continuously through 2017, resulting in an overall decline of 29% that translates into an estimated 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths than would have occurred if peak rates had persisted. This progress is driven by long-term declines in death rates for the 4 leading cancers (lung, colorectal, breast, prostate); however, over the past decade (2008-2017), reductions slowed for female breast and colorectal cancers, and halted for prostate cancer. In contrast, declines accelerated for lung cancer, from 3% annually during 2008 through 2013 to 5% during 2013 through 2017 in men and from 2% to almost 4% in women, spurring the largest ever single-year drop in overall cancer mortality of 2.2% from 2016 to 2017. Yet lung cancer still caused more deaths in 2017 than breast, prostate, colorectal, and brain cancers combined. Recent mortality declines were also dramatic for melanoma of the skin in the wake of US Food and Drug Administration approval of new therapies for metastatic disease, escalating to 7% annually during 2013 through 2017 from 1% during 2006 through 2010 in men and women aged 50 to 64 years and from 2% to 3% in those aged 20 to 49 years; annual declines of 5% to 6% in individuals aged 65 years and older are particularly striking because rates in this age group were increasing prior to 2013. It is also notable that long-term rapid increases in liver cancer mortality have attenuated in women and stabilized in men. In summary, slowing momentum for some cancers amenable to early detection is juxtaposed with notable gains for other common cancers.
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            COVID-19 and Racial/Ethnic Disparities

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              Caregiving as a risk factor for mortality: the Caregiver Health Effects Study.

              There is strong consensus that caring for an elderly individual with disability is burdensome and stressful to many family members and contributes to psychiatric morbidity. Researchers have also suggested that the combination of loss, prolonged distress, the physical demands of caregiving, and biological vulnerabilities of older caregivers may compromise their physiological functioning and increase their risk for physical health problems, leading to increased mortality. To examine the relationship between caregiving demands among older spousal caregivers and 4-year all-cause mortality, controlling for sociodemographic factors, prevalent clinical disease, and subclinical disease at baseline. Prospective population-based cohort study, from 1993 through 1998 with an average of 4.5 years of follow-up. Four US communities. A total of 392 caregivers and 427 noncaregivers aged 66 to 96 years who were living with their spouses. Four-year mortality, based on level of caregiving: (1) spouse not disabled; (2) spouse disabled and not helping; (3) spouse disabled and helping with no strain reported; or(4) spouse disabled and helping with mental or emotional strain reported. After 4 years of follow-up, 103 participants (12.6%) died. After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, prevalent disease, and subclinical cardiovascular disease, participants who were providing care and experiencing caregiver strain had mortality risks that were 63% higher than noncaregiving controls (relative risk [RR], 1.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.00-2.65). Participants who were providing care but not experiencing strain (RR, 1.08; 95 % CI, 0.61-1.90) and those with a disabled spouse who were not providing care (RR, 1.37; 95% CI, 0.73-2.58) did not have elevated adjusted mortality rates relative to the noncaregiving controls. Our study suggests that being a caregiver who is experiencing mental or emotional strain is an independent risk factor for mortality among elderly spousal caregivers. Caregivers who report strain associated with caregiving are more likely to die than noncaregiving controls.

                Author and article information

                Support Care Cancer
                Support Care Cancer
                Supportive Care in Cancer
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                6 January 2021
                : 1-10
                [1 ]GRID grid.252353.0, ISNI 0000 0001 0583 8943, Department of Public Health, College of Health Sciences, , Arcadia University, ; 214 Brubaker Hall, 450S. Easton Rd., Glenside, PA 19038 USA
                [2 ]GRID grid.249335.a, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Cancer Prevention and Control Program, ; Philadelphia, PA USA
                © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE part of Springer Nature 2021

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

                Original Article

                Oncology & Radiotherapy

                caregiving, cancer, covid-19, emotional and financial strain


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