Changes in social, psychological and physical well-being in the last 5 years of life of older people with cancer: a longitudinal study

Lara Pivodic*, Tine De Burghgraeve, Jos Twisk, Marjan van den Akker, Frank Buntinx, Lieve Van den Block

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


BACKGROUND: older people with cancer are at risk of complex and fluctuating health problems, but little is known about the extent to which their well-being changes in the last years of life.

OBJECTIVE: to examine changes in physical, psychological and social well-being in the last 5 years of life of older people with cancer.

DESIGN: prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Belgium, the Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: people with a new primary diagnosis of breast, prostate, lung or gastrointestinal cancer, aged ≥70 years, life expectancy >6 months, were recruited from nine hospitals. We analysed data of deceased patients.

METHODS: data were collected from participants around diagnosis, and after 6 months, 1, 3 and 5 years through structured questionnaires administered through interviews or as self-report. Outcomes were physical, emotional, social, role functioning (EORTC QLQ-C30), depressive symptoms (GDS-15), emotional and social loneliness (Loneliness Scale). We conducted linear mixed model analyses.

RESULTS: analysing 225 assessments from 107 deceased participants (assessments took place between 1,813 and 5 days before death), mean age at baseline 77 years (standard deviation: 5.2), we found statistically significant deterioration in physical functioning (b = 0,016 [95%confidence interval 0.009-0.023]), depressive symptoms (b = -0,001 [-0.002 to 0.000]) and role functioning (b = 0.014 [0.004-0.024]). Changes over time in emotional and social functioning and in social and emotional loneliness were smaller and statistically non-significant.

CONCLUSIONS: care towards the end of life for older people with cancer needs to put their social and psychological well-being at the centre, alongside physical needs. Future research should focus on understanding inter-individual variation in trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829-1833
Number of pages5
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2021


  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Loneliness
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms/diagnosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • well-being
  • end of life
  • prospective cohort study
  • longitudinal study
  • older people with cancer

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