Document Type




Publication Date




Source Publication

Journal of General Internal Medicine

Source ISSN




Recent research suggests that mental health problems in spouses of cancer survivors are associated with worse mental health in the survivors themselves. Adequately treating spousal mental health problems therefore represents an opportunity to improve outcomes for both cancer survivors and their co-surviving family members.


Using nationally representative data, this study sought to determine how depression treatment differs between spouses of cancer survivors with depression compared to the general married population and assess rural/urban disparities in treatment.


The design of the study is cross sectional.


Data are from the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, a household-based survey of US adults; we concatenated data from 2004 to 2013. We identified spouses of cancer survivors (n = 225) and a comparison group of married adults (n = 3678).

Main Measures

Key measures included depression, guideline concordance of depression treatment (at least four prescriptions related to depression treatment, or at least eight psychotherapy or counseling visits), and sociodemographic characteristics. Logistic regressions evaluated the association between whether their spouse had cancer and receipt of guideline-concordant treatment, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics; secondary analyses included rurality as a moderator. Analyses were weighted to account for the complex sampling design.

Key Results

Spouses of cancer survivors were 33% less likely to receive guideline-concordant depression treatment than comparison spouses (odds ratio (OR) 0.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.45–0.99), controlling for covariates. Rural-urban disparities were observed: rural spouses of cancer survivors were 72% less likely to receive guideline-concordant treatment (OR 0.28, 95% CI 0.11–0.68) than rural comparison spouses. Spouses of cancer survivors and comparison spouses were no different in their receipt of any treatment versus no treatment.


Spouses of cancer survivors with depression may be at increased risk of non-guideline-concordant depression treatment, particularly in rural areas. The findings have implications for identifying and educating individuals with depression in primary care and other clinical areas.


Accepted version. Journal of General Internal Medicine, Vol. 33, No. 6 (June 2018): 869-876. DOI. © 2018 Society of General Internal Medicine. Used with permission.

keller_11394acc.docx (187 kB)
ADA Accessible Version