CONTEXT: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), associated with health-related suffering, can benefit from palliative care in resource-limited settings, where over four-fifths of these deaths occur.

OBJECTIVE: To measure the prevalence of depressive symptoms, palliative care-related concerns, physical and other psychological symptoms among adult patients with NCDs in Malawi and Namibia.

METHODS: This multi-center, cross-sectional study consecutively recruited outpatients from four tertiary referral hospitals. Stepwise regression analysis was used to assess factors associated with physical and psychological symptom burden.

RESULTS: Among 457 participants, primary diagnosis was cancer (n=147, 32%); cardiovascular disease (CVD) (n=130, 28%), chronic respiratory disease (CRESD) (n=73, 16%) or diabetes (n=107, 23%). Over half were female (58.9%; n=269), mean age was 48 (SD=15.7). Clinically significant psychological distress was identified among cancer (57.2%), diabetes (57.0%), CRESD (45.2%) and CVD patients (43.1%), with criterion for major depression symptoms met for cancer (42.9%), diabetes (39.2%), CVD (30.0%) and CRESD (28.8%). Most severe palliative care concerns were: first sharing feelings (i.e., not at all/not very often), reported by CVD (28%), CRESD (23%), cancer (22%) and diabetes (21%) patients; second help and advice (i.e., none/very little), among cancer (28%), CVD (26%), diabetes (22%), and CRESD (16%) patients. High prevalence of moderate-to-severe pain was reported (cancer 54%, CVD 41%, CRESD 38%, diabetes 38%). Functional status, age and presence of comorbidities were associated with physical and psychological symptom distress.

CONCLUSION: Given the high burden of physical and psychosocial symptoms and symptom distress, the findings highlight the need for integrated person-centered palliative care for NCDs to optimize care outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-37
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of pain and symptom management
Issue number1
Early online date23 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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