Insufficient communication and anxiety in cancer-bereaved siblings: A nationwide long-term follow-up.

18 Jun 2018

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to examine siblings' long-term psychological health in relation to their perception of communication with their family, friends, and healthcare professionals during a brother or sister's last month of life. METHOD: A nationwide questionnaire study was conducted during 2009 in Sweden of individuals who had lost a brother or sister to cancer within the previous two to nine years. Of the 240 siblings contacted, 174 (73%), participated. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was employed to assess psychological health (anxiety). The data are presented as proportions (%) and relative risks (RR) with a 95% confidence interval (CI 95%). RESULTS: Siblings who were not satisfied with the amount they talked about their feelings with others during their brother or sister's last month of life were more likely to report anxiety (15/58, 26%) than those who were satisfied (13/115, 11%; RR = 2.3(1.2-4.5)). The same was true for those who had been unable to talk to their family after bereavement (RR = 2.5(1.3-4.8)). Avoiding healthcare professionals for fear of being in their way increased siblings' risk of reporting anxiety at follow-up (RR = 2.2(1.1-4.6)), especially avoidance in the hospital setting (RR = 6.7(2.5-18.2)). No such differences were seen when the ill brother or sister was cared for at home. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Long-term anxiety in bereaved siblings might be due to insufficient communication. Avoiding healthcare professionals, especially when the brother or sister is cared for at the hospital, may also increase the risk of anxiety.