BioScience Trends. 2020;14(1):35-41. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2019.01296)

Fast time perception is associated with high levels of anxiety in cancer patients prior to starting chemotherapy

Donev I, Ivanova M, Conev N


Our study explored the potential relationship between time perception and the level of anxiety in cancer patients prior to starting chemotherapy. Time perception was assessed in 162 chemonaïve patients with solid tumors by evaluating each subject’s prospective estimation of how fast one minute passed compared to the actual amount of time passed. The median value of time perception was used to stratify the patients into two categories of fast and slow time perception. We used the generalized anxiety disorder questionnaire (GAD-7) as a screening tool for detecting levels of anxiety. Scores ≥ 10 were considered high. In total, 45 (27.8%) patients had high levels of anxiety. The pattern of the time perception distributions significantly changed according to the reported levels on the GAD-7 scale. Scores ≥ 10 correlated with fast time perception and the female gender. Patients with a fast time perception had significantly higher levels of anxiety (8.44 ± 5.1) than patients with a slow time perception (3.49 ± 4.3). ROC analysis revealed that at the optimal cut-off value of time perception, clinically significant levels of anxiety can be discriminated with an AUC = 0.78 (95% CI: 0.70-0.85, p < 0.001), a sensitivity of 82.2% and a specificity of 64.1%. Moreover, in a multivariate logistic regression model, fast time perception was an independent predictor of clinically significant levels of anxiety (OR: 8.24; 95% CI: 3.16-21.41, p < 0.001). Time perception is a novel potent indicator for high levels of anxiety in cancer patients.

KEYWORDS: Oncology, cancer, anxiety, time perception

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