Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 4283–4291 | Cite as

Burden and happiness in head and neck cancer carers: the role of supportive care needs

  • Paul HanlyEmail author
  • Rebecca Maguire
  • Myles Balfe
  • Philip Hyland
  • Aileen Timmons
  • Eleanor O’Sullivan
  • Phyllis Butow
  • Linda Sharp
Original Article



Our study aimed to investigate the relationship between unmet supportive care needs and carer burden and happiness, in head and neck cancer (HNC).


Two hundred eighty-five HNC informal carers were sent a postal questionnaire between January and June 2014, which included the supportive care needs survey for partners and caregivers of cancer survivors (SCNS-P&C) and the CarerQol, which assesses burden and happiness. Multiple regression analysis was conducted to examine the association of (i) carer characteristics, (ii) carer situation, and (iii) unmet supportive care needs, with carer burden and happiness


One hundred ninety-seven carers completed the questionnaire (response rate = 69 %), 180 of whom were included in the analysis. The majority were female (76 %), not in paid employment (68 %) and caring for their spouse (67 %). On average, carers reported relatively low levels of burden and relatively high levels of happiness. Carer factors explained 42 % of variance in levels of burden and 24 % of variance in levels of happiness. Healthcare service needs were associated with carer burden (β = .28, p = .04), while psychological needs (β = −.38, p = .028), health care service needs (β = −.30, p = .049), information needs (β = .29, p = .028), carer comorbidity (β = −.18, p = .030), and gender (β = −.16, p = .045) were associated with happiness.


Our results indicate that different aspects of carer characteristics and unmet needs are associated with carer burden and happiness. Efforts directed at reducing unmet healthcare service needs in particular are merited given their associations with both aspects of carer quality of life.


Unmet needs Carer burden Quality of life Head and neck cancer carer burden Happiness 



We would like to thank the health professionals involved in this project for facilitating the survivor survey and supporting the local ethics applications. We also appreciate the advice and helpful comments provided by Dr. Rachael Gooberman-Hill.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Grant information

Funding for this study was supplied by the Health Research Board (HRA/2009/262; HRA/2009/262/R).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Hanly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rebecca Maguire
    • 1
  • Myles Balfe
    • 2
  • Philip Hyland
    • 1
  • Aileen Timmons
    • 2
  • Eleanor O’Sullivan
    • 3
  • Phyllis Butow
    • 4
  • Linda Sharp
    • 5
  1. 1.National College of IrelandDublin 1Ireland
  2. 2.National Cancer Registry IrelandCorkIreland
  3. 3.University College CorkCorkIreland
  4. 4.University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Newcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneUK

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