Social constraints on cancer-related disclosure have been associated with increased distress among cancer patients. The goals of this meta-analysis were: (1) to quantify the average strength of the relationships between social constraints and general and cancer-specific distress in cancer patients; and (2) to examine potential moderators of these relationships. A literature search was conducted using electronic databases, and 30 studies met inclusion criteria. Moderate, significant relationships were found between social constraints and both general distress (r = 0.37, 95 % CI 0.31–0.43) and cancer-specific distress (r = 0.37, 95 % CI 0.31–0.44). The relationship between social constraints and cancer-specific distress was stronger for studies of patients who, on average, had been diagnosed more recently. Relationships between social constraints and both general and cancer-specific distress did not vary by age or gender. Findings suggest that social constraints may be important to target in interventions to reduce distress in cancer patients, especially those who have been recently diagnosed.