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PURPOSE: We investigate whether cancer patients' economic characteristics are independent determinants of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in low- and middle-income settings to identify priorities for health policy and research. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of 9,513 cancer patients from Southeast Asia provided data on demographics, economic status and HRQoL. HRQoL was measured using the EORTC QLQ-C30 and EQ-5D. Information on cancer site and stage was collected using the patients' medical records. Multiple linear regression analysis estimated the relative impact of economic characteristics (i.e. health insurance, employment status, household income and economic hardship) on HRQoL. RESULTS: All economic characteristics were significant independent determinants of HRQoL, when we controlled for demographic and clinical characteristics. Economic hardship was found to be most important. The adjusted mean differences in HRQoL scores between patients who had experienced economic hardship in the year before diagnosis compared to patients who did not were -5.6, -6.7, -7.3 and -0.06, respectively, for global health, physical function, emotional function and the EQ-5D index (all p values <0.001). Subgroup analyses showed that this significant result for economic hardship as a predictor of poor HRQoL was consistent across all age groups, for males and females, and across all levels of education. CONCLUSIONS: Living in poor economic circumstances before a cancer diagnosis is associated with greatly impaired HRQoL after diagnosis. There is wide scope for research on innovative interventions that provide low-cost and targeted support aimed to improve health outcomes of disadvantaged cancer patients in low- and middle-income settings.

Original publication




Journal article


Qual Life Res

Publication Date





937 - 949


Aged, Asia, Southeastern, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Health Policy, Humans, Income, Insurance, Health, Male, Medical Records, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Poverty, Quality of Life, Vulnerable Populations