Objective: Identifying modifiable factors affecting work ability among cancer survivors is important. The primary aim of the present study was to examine the effects of depression and related psychological factors on work ability among breast cancer survivors in Australia.

Methods: In this cross‐sectional electronic and postal survey, Australian breast cancer survivors were investigated. Work status and conditions before and after cancer treatment were analysed. Work ability was measured using the Work Limitation Questionnaire©‐Short Form (WLQ‐SF) with its four domains (time management, physical tasks, mental‐interpersonal tasks, and output tasks). Three psychological factors were investigated: depression, fear of cancer recurrence, and demoralisation. Sociodemographic and clinical data were also collected. Multivariate regression analysis was used to identify the associations of psychological factors with WLQ‐SF.

Results: Among eligible survivors, 310 (50%) responded to the survey and were analysed. Nearly one third reported their work conditions had changed after cancer treatment. The depressed group reported limited work ability in 35%–44% of the four domains of WLQ‐SF, while the non‐depressed group reported limited work ability in only 8%–13%. At‐work productivity loss was approximately fourfold higher in the depressed group than in the non‐depressed group. In multivariate analysis, at‐work productivity loss was associated with depression, demoralisation, and past history of anxiety.

Conclusions: After breast cancer treatment, work conditions changed toward lower wages and working hours. Depression, demoralisation, and past history of anxiety were associated with lower work ability. Further evaluations of work rehabilitation in breast cancer survivors are warranted.


breast cancer, demoralisation, depression, oncology, psycho‐oncology, rehabilitation, return to work, work ability

Link to Publisher Version (URL)


Available for download on Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Find in your library