, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 109-116
Date: 25 Feb 2009

Is somatic comorbidity associated with more somatic symptoms, mental distress, or unhealthy lifestyle in elderly cancer survivors?

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The associations of lifestyle factors, somatic symptoms, mental distress, and somatic comorbidity in elderly cancer survivors have not been well studied. This study examines these associations among elderly cancer survivors (age ≥65 years) in a population-based sample.


A cross-sectional comparative study of Norwegian elderly cancer survivors. Combining information from The Norwegian Cancer Registry, and by self-reporting, 972 elderly cancer survivors were identified, of whom 632 (65%) had somatic comorbidity and 340 did not.


Elderly cancer survivors with somatic comorbidity had significantly higher BMI, more performed minimal physical activity, had more somatic symptoms, used more medication, and had more frequently seen a medical doctor than survivors without somatic comorbidity. In multivariable analyses, unhealthy lifestyle and higher somatic symptoms scores were significantly associated with cancer cases with somatic comorbidity. In univariate analyses those with somatic comorbidity were significantly older, had lower levels of education, higher proportions of BMI ≥ 30, less physical activity, poorer self-rated health, higher somatic symptoms score, more mental distress, had more frequently seen a medical doctor last year, and more frequently used daily medication.


Our outcome measures of lifestyle, somatic symptoms and mental distress were all significantly associated with somatic comorbidity in elderly cancer survivors, however only lifestyle and somatic symptoms were significant in multivariable analyses.

Implications for cancer survivors

In elderly cancer survivors not only cancer, but also somatic comorbidity, deserve attention. Such comorbidity is associated with unhealthy lifestyles, more somatic symptoms and mental distress which should be evaluated and eventually treated.