Can Social Networks Help Improving the Emotional Health of Cancer Patients?

In the context of developing countries, chronic illness is one of the dominant health burdens, and cancer is responsible for majority of the deaths. This study tries to understand how social networks affect the emotional well-being of the cancer patients. The data for this paper comes from the field survey that we conducted in four major hospitals in Nepal in 2018. The survey collected data on quality of life of cancer patients and patients of other chronic illnesses.

The data suggests that the cancer patients suffer from higher levels of emotional stress compared to other patients. We hypothesize that social networks can help reduce this emotional burden and improve their emotional well-being. The social network is measured by the quality of the relationships of cancer patients with their friends, family and colleagues. The emotional burden (depression) is measured using nine questions from Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) which is used to assess the degree of emotional stress among the patients. The study uses structural equation modelling to understand the role of social networks in cancer patients’ emotional well-being.

We find that social network reduces depression among cancer patients. We also find that this effect is higher in case of women cancer patients compare to the men cancer patients. These results strongly advocate for the importance of social networks in improving the quality of life of cancer patients. In conclusion, this study discusses the policies in regard to the welfare of cancer patients.

Graduate Student: Disha Shende

Funding agency: American Cancer Society