Self-injury in youths who lost a parent to cancer: nationwide study of the impact of family-related and health-care-related factors.

21 Jun 2018

BACKGROUND: Self-injury, a manifestation of severe psychological distress, is increased in cancer-bereaved youths. Little is known about the potential influence on the risk for self-injury of factors that could be clinically relevant to and modifiable by the health-care professionals involved in the care of the dying parent. METHODS: In a nationwide population-based anonymous study, 622 (73.1%) youths (aged 18-26) who, 6 to 9 years earlier at ages 13 to 16, had lost a parent to cancer answered study-specific questions about self-injury and factors related to the family and parental health care. RESULTS: Univariable analyses showed that the risk for self-injury was increased among cancer-bereaved youths who reported poor family cohesion the years before (relative risk [RR], 3.4, 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.5-4.6) and after the loss (RR, 3.3, 95% CI, 2.4-4.4), distrust in the health care provided to the dying parent (RR, 1.7, 95% CI, 1.2-2.4), perceiving poor health-care efforts to cure the parent (RR 1.5, 95% CI, 1.1-2.1) and poor efforts to prevent suffering (RR, 1.6, 95% CI, 1.1-2.4), that at least one of their parents had been depressed or had troubles in life (RR, 1.5, CI, 1.1-2.1) and believing 3 days before the loss that the treatment would probably cure the parent (RR, 1.6, CI, 1.1-2.3). In the total multivariable models, only poor family cohesion before and after the loss remained statistically significantly associated with self-injury. CONCLUSION: Poor family cohesion before and after the loss of a parent to cancer is associated with an increased risk of self-injury in teenage children.