21 May 2021

COVID-19 has made people feel even more isolated

A significant number of cancer patients are lonely – and the global pandemic has only made things worse, according to a new study.

The research, from the National Cancer Institute in the United States, found that 53% of 606 adults with cancer surveyed in May 2020 reported feeling lonely. This compares with 32-47% reported as being lonely before COVID-19. About a third had moderately high degrees of loneliness, and 5.3% reported high levels of depression.

Older cancer patients generally reported lower levels of loneliness, but patients aged 50 to 59 reported higher levels.

“For these patients, the burden of their symptoms is extremely high,” said first author Christine Miaskowski, a professor in the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing. “Patients should be encouraged to maintain contact with family and friends, and structure their daily routines when possible, through outdoor activities for example, as well as to maintain a healthy diet and sufficient sleep.”

The study was published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.