Psychological distress and unsatisfied need for psychosocial support in adolescent and young adult cancer patients during the first year following diagnosis

Brad J. Zebrack, Virginia Corbett, Leanne Embry, Christine Aguilar, Kathleen A. Meeske, Brandon Hayes-Lattin, Rebecca Block, David T. Zeman, Steven Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


Purpose: Identifying at-risk adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients and referring them to age-appropriate psychosocial support services may be instrumental in reducing psychological distress and promoting psychosocial adaptation. The purpose of this study is to identify trajectories of clinically significant levels of distress throughout the first year following diagnosis and to distinguish factors, including supportive care service use, that predict the extent to which AYAs report distress.

Methods: In this prospective multisite study, 215 AYAs aged 15-39 years were assessed for psychological distress and psychosocial support service use within the first 4 months of diagnosis and again 6 and 12 months later. On the basis of distress scores, respondents were assigned to one of four distress trajectory groups (Resilient, Recovery, Delayed, and Chronic). Multiple logistic regression analyses examined whether demographics, clinical variables, and reports of unsatisfied need for psychosocial support were associated with distress trajectories over 1 year.

Results: Twelve percent of AYAs reported clinically significant chronic distress throughout the first 12 months following diagnosis. An additional 15% reported delayed distress. Substantial proportions of AYAs reported that needs for information (57%), counseling (41%), and practical support (39%) remained unsatisfied at 12 months following diagnosis. Not getting counseling needs met, particularly with regard to professional mental health services, was observed to be significantly associated with distress over time.

Conclusions: Substantial proportions of AYAs are not utilizing psychosocial support services. Findings suggest the importance of identifying psychologically distressed AYAs and addressing their needs for mental health counseling throughout a continuum of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1267-1275
Number of pages9
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Oncology


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