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Social correlates of mental health in gastrointestinal cancer patients and their family caregivers: Exploring the role of loneliness.

Secinti E, Rand KL, Johns SA, O'Neil BH, Helft PR, Shahda S, Jalal SI, Mosher CE. Social correlates of mental health in gastrointestinal cancer patients and their family caregivers: Exploring the role of loneliness. Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. 2019 Jun 1; 27(6):2077-2086.

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PURPOSE: The present study examined the degree to which loneliness mediated the influence of negative (social constraints) and positive (emotional support) relationship qualities on the global mental health of advanced gastrointestinal (GI) cancer patients and their family caregivers. METHODS: Fifty patient-caregiver dyads completed measures assessing social constraints (e.g., avoidance, criticism) from the other dyad members, emotional support from others, loneliness, and global mental health. Structural equation modeling was used to examine individual models, and Actor-Partner Interdependence Mediation Modeling was used to examine dyadic associations. RESULTS: Individual path analyses for patients and caregivers demonstrated that emotional support had a significant indirect effect on mental health through loneliness (Bs? = 0.32 and 0.30, respectively), but no associations were found between social constraints and mental health. In dyadic analyses, participants'' loneliness and mental health were not significantly related to their partner''s emotional support, loneliness, or mental health (Bs? = -?0.18 to 0.18). CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that for advanced GI cancer patients and caregivers, emotional support from others alleviates feelings of loneliness, which may lead to better mental health. However, the benefits of emotional support appear to be primarily intrapersonal rather than interpersonal in nature. Additionally, participants endorsed low levels of social constraints, which might explain their lack of relation to loneliness and mental health. Continued examination of interdependence in social processes between cancer patients and caregivers will inform intervention development.

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