Individuals With Cancer in Low-Income or Rural Areas Have Increased Risk of Suicide

Study results shows that patients who have been diagnosed with the disease may face many challenges, which can increase anxiety or depression.

Individuals with cancer who live in low-income or rural areas have an increased risk of suicide compared with those in high-income or urban areas, according to the results of study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

“People who have received a cancer diagnosis are faced with a number of challenges, such as accessing reliable and affordable care, that can add to existing anxiety or depression associated with their illness,” Ryan Suk, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of management, policy, and community health at UTHealth School of Public Health, said in a statement. “But those who live in economically or medically underserved areas can be especially affected.”

The results showed that individuals with cancer and those who survived had nearly twice the risk of suicide morality compared with the general population.

Individuals who were in the lowest income quartile had 1.94 times more risk, and rural counties had 1.81 times risk of suicide morality than individuals with cancer in the highest-income quartile (1.30 times) and urban counties (1.35 times).

The suicide morality risk was the highest within 1 year after diagnosis and decreased over time for all area groups. The risk remained nearly twice that of the general population after more than a decade for those in the lowest-income counties.

Those in other county groups, including higher-income counties had no difference from the general population after more than 10 years following cancer diagnosis.

“Patients living with cancer and cancer survivors face many complex challenges, particularly those living in rural or low-income areas. Enhanced telemedicine options for mental health and other health care needs could be one way to increase access to these important services for this population and help reduce their risk of suicide mortality,” Suk said.

Investigators used data collected between 2000 and 2016 from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program from the National Cancer Institute where there were 5,362,782 individuals who had cancer across the United States, and 6357 died by suicide.

Investigators compared the mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics to compare the suicide risk with the entire United States population.

Reference

People with cancer and cancer survivors in low-income and rural areas face greater risk of suicide. EurekAlert. News release. October 19, 2021. Accessed on October 19, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/931962