INTRODUCTION: Cancer care is significantly impacted by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Our objective was to evaluate the early effects of the pandemic on the emotional well-being of oncology providers across the United States and explore factors associated with anxiety and depression symptoms.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was administered to United States cancer-care physicians recruited over a two-week period (3/27/2020-4/10/2020) using snowball-convenience sampling through social media. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-4).

RESULTS: Of 486 participants, 374 (77.0%) completed the PHQ-4: median age was 43 years; 63.2% female; all oncologic specialties were represented. The rates of anxiety and depression symptoms were 62.0% and 23.5%, respectively. Demographic factors associated with anxiety included female sex, younger age, and less time in clinical practice. Perception of inadequate personal protective equipment (68.6% vs. 57.4%, p = 0.03) and practicing in a state with more COVID-19 cases (65.8% vs. 51.1%, p = 0.01) were associated with anxiety symptoms. Factors significantly associated with both anxiety and depression included the degree to which COVID-19 has interfered with the ability to provide treatment to cancer patients and concern that patients will not receive the level of care needed for non-COVID-19 illness (all p-values <0.01).

CONCLUSION: The perceived degree of interference with clinical practice along with personal concerns about COVID-19 were significantly associated with both anxiety and depression among oncology physicians in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings highlight factors associated with and sources of psychological distress to be addressed to protect the well-being of oncology physicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0242767
JournalPloS one
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Thomaier et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety/psychology
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Oncologists/psychology
  • Pandemics
  • Patient Health Questionnaire
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Psychological Distress
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States/epidemiology

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Preprint


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