Pancreatic cancer (PC) has high morbidity and mortality and is stressful for patients and their partners. We investigated the psychological symptom burden in partners of PC patients.
We followed 5774 partners of PC patients diagnosed from 2000 to 2016 up for first redeemed prescriptions of antidepressants or hospital admission, anxiolytics, and hypnotics as proxies for clinical depression, anxiety, and insomnia and compared them with 59,099 partners of cancer-free spouses. Data were analysed using Cox regression and multistate Markov models.
The cumulative incidence proportion of first depression was higher in partners of PC patients compared to comparisons. The highest adjusted HR of first depression was seen the first year after diagnosis (HR 3.2 (95% CI: 2.9; 3.7)). Educational level, chronic morbidity, and bereavement status were associated with an increased risk of first depression. There was a significantly higher first acute use (1 prescription only) of both anxiolytics and hypnotics and chronic use (3+ prescriptions) of hypnotics in partners of PC patients than in comparisons.
Being a partner to a PC patient carries a substantial psychological symptom burden and increases the risk for first depression and anxiolytic use and long-term use of hypnotics. Attention should be given to the psychological symptom burden of partners of PC patients, as this may pose a barrier for the optimal informal care and support of the PC patient, as well as a risk for non-optimal management of symptoms in the partner.