Loneliness among cancer caregivers: A narrative review

Tamryn F. Gray, Desiree R. Azizoddin, Paula V. Nersesian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Providing care to a loved one with cancer places demands on caregivers that result in changes to their daily routines and disruptions to their social relationships that then contribute to loneliness. Though caregivers' psychosocial challenges have been well studied, loneliness - a determinant of health - has not been well studied in this population. This narrative review sought to describe the current evidence on loneliness among caregivers of cancer patients. We aimed to (1) define loneliness, (2) describe its prevalence, (3) describe the association between loneliness and health outcomes, (4) describe risks and consequences of loneliness among cancer caregivers, (5) identify ways to assess loneliness, and (6) recommend strategies to mitigate loneliness in this unique population.Method We used evidence from articles listed in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases, book chapters, and reports. Articles were reviewed for the following inclusion criteria: (1) published in English, (2) caregivers of cancer patients, (3) loneliness as a study variable, and (4) peer-reviewed with no restriction on the timeframe of publication. Caregivers were defined as relatives, friends, or partners who provide most of the care and support for someone with cancer.Results Eighteen studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. Caregivers' experiences of loneliness can contribute to negative effects on one's social, emotional, and physical well-being. Social support interventions may not be sufficient to address this problem. Existing recommendations to mitigate loneliness include cognitive and psychological reframing, one-on-one and group therapy, befriending, resilience training, and technology-based interventions.Significance of results Limited attention to loneliness in cancer caregivers poses a twofold problem that impacts patient and caregiver outcomes. Interventions are critically needed to address loneliness as a determinant of health in caregivers, given their pivotal role in providing care and impacting health outcomes for people with cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-367
Number of pages9
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Family caregivers
  • Loneliness
  • Palliative care
  • Psychosocial oncology
  • Social isolation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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