View all Researchcancer patient plays re-mission on laptop while adult looks on
View all Research

Cancer in Adolescents and Young Adults

Who Remains at Risk of Poor Social Functioning Over Time?

Olga HussonBradley J ZebrackChristine AguilarBrandon Hayes-LattinSteve Cole 


Background: The objective of the current study was to examine social functioning among adolescents and young adults (AYAs) within the first 2 years after a cancer diagnosis and compare their scores with population norms and identify trajectories of social functioning over time and its correlates.

Methods: A multicenter, longitudinal study was conducted among 215 AYA patients with cancer aged 14 to 39 years. A total of 141 patients completed a self-report measure of social functioning within the first 4 months of diagnosis and again at 12 months and 24 months later.

Results: AYA patients with cancer were found to have significantly worse social functioning scores around the time of diagnosis (52.0 vs 85.1; P<.001), at the 12-month follow-up (73.1 vs 85.1; P<.001), and at the 24-month follow-up (69.2 vs 85.1; P<.001) when compared with population norms. Significant improvements in social functioning from baseline to the 12-month follow-up were observed; however, social functioning levels remained stable thereafter. Among participants, 9% demonstrated consistently high/normal social functioning, 47% demonstrated improved social functioning, 13% were found to have worsening social functioning, and 32% demonstrated consistently low social functioning. AYA patients with cancer who had consistently low social functioning were more often off treatment at the time of follow-up, reported more physical symptoms and higher levels of distress at baseline and follow-up, and perceived less social support at baseline compared with the other 3 groups.

Conclusions: Although improved over time, social functioning still was found to be compromised 24 months after the primary diagnosis. Nearly one-third of these patients remain at risk of poor social functioning. Reducing physical symptoms and psychological distress and enhancing social support by interventions during the period after treatment may potentially help these young survivors to better reintegrate into society. Cancer 2017;123:2743-51. © 2017 American Cancer Society.

Read more in the journal Cancer.

Related Content

View all Research

This study shows that while social media continues to pose risks, it also plays a beneficial role in supporting the mental health and well-being of young people — especially those from marginalized communities.

picture of imi on a phone screen

Read the results of a randomized control trial conducted on imi, a free, mental health web app, designed to help LGBTQ+ youth cope with stress.

Mother looking down at baby on a bed.

The present study explores barriers and facilitators experienced by public health nurses introducing a mobile health technology platform (Goal Mama) to the Nurse-Family Partnership home-visiting program.

Young person in the foreground looking up, holding a mobile phone

One year into the pandemic, a new survey reveals that teens and young adults are actively turning to online sources to cope with mental health.