ESRC social reintegration of TYA with cancer

A growing proportion of the population living with and beyond cancer are working-age cancer survivors, and 300,000 are estimated to be teenagers and young adults (TYAs) aged 16 to 39. With advances in medical treatments, up to 90% of TYAs now live beyond their treatment, a growing population. A cancer diagnosis will disrupt anybody’s life, their personal biography, resulting in a significant impact on their physical, emotional, social, and economic well-being. This will be even more challenging for young people, diagnosed at a vulnerable time of multiple transitions and emerging adulthood (e.g. completing education, leaving home, becoming financially independent, forging relationships/marrying, having children).


Our project aims to understand how the social integration of TYAs is impacted by a cancer diagnosis.

We will describe their social reintegration (SR) through outcomes relating to: employment (income, type of employment); educational attainment (level of education and satisfaction); social development (quantity and quality of social support, connections, and participation); and subjective well-being (how people feel about their life, including satisfaction with key life domains such as health, family, income, social relationships, leisure time, work, and sex life). We want to understand which factors contribute (together or independently) to enable or disable TYAs’ SR trajectories following treatment. This will be facilitated by linking knowledge and methods from multiple fields such as medical and psychosocial oncology, sociology, and developmental psychology. We will explore how social science perspectives and methodologies can inform the development of health and social care support that minimises the impact of cancer on TYAs’ lives.


Through 3 interconnected strands of research, including a qualitative sub-study we will explore, in turn, several sets of factors that may influence TYAs’ SR trajectories:

  • socio-demographic factors (e.g. age, gender, geographical area);
  • clinical factors (e.g. cancer type, time since diagnosis);
  • psychosocial factors (e.g. extraversion, self-efficacy);
  • patient-reported outcomes (‘PROs’, e.g. ongoing symptoms, health-related quality of life).


Other factors, potentially unaccounted in existing literature, may emerge from our qualitative patient interviews. This will enable the development of stratified, evidence-based knowledge to improve the educational, employment, and social development opportunities of TYA cancer patients.


To evaluate the influence of socio-demographic and clinical factors we will analyse and compare 2 existing databases. These databases include information on our planned outcomes in the general population and a nation-wide cancer group.


To evaluate the influence of psychosocial factors and patient-reported outcomes we will then run a longitudinal study with 2 patient groups (one during and one after treatment) across 2 centres. To explore wider potential factors we will run interviews with TYAs in the socio-demographic and clinical strata defined by the secondary data analyses.


Our ambition is that TYAs should have the same or better opportunities and socio-economic outcomes as their peers or as they would have expected if they were not diagnosed with cancer. To develop the support to achieve this, we require the evidence this project will deliver. Within 3 years, the 3 strands of our project will come together to offer a comprehensive description of the ‘biographical disruption’ and inequality of opportunity and outcomes brought about by a cancer diagnosis in the lives of TYAs. This will be summarised in a Multidimensional Stratification Model of Social Reintegration Outcomes, which will be relevant to many health and social care policies addressing patients’ future socio-economic outcomes.