While there has been a great deal of research reporting on the connection between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and depression, there have been very few studies showing the direct impact that depression has on patients with COPD.
COPD is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases, which may include asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and some forms of bronchiectasis. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and the condition typically emerges in people over the age of 40. It is estimated to affect 24 million Americans.
The two new studies, published in the journal CHEST, reveal that one in four patients with COPD suffers from depressive symptoms, and if not treated, these symptoms can take a terrible toll on their overall health and treatment effectiveness.
In the first study, researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University analyzed three-year data obtained from patients with COPD. They found that one in four patients with COPD had persistent depressive symptoms over three years. The chances of developing a new case of depression directly increased with worse health status and moderate-to-severe breathlessness.
COPD patients who suffer with persistent or new-onset depression experience more exacerbations of COPD and more pronounced loss in performance. COPD exacerbations cause frequent hospital admissions, relapses, and readmissions; contribute to death during hospitalizations or shortly thereafter; dramatically reduce the quality of life; consume financial resources; and hasten a progressive decline in pulmonary function, a cardinal feature of COPD.
Hospitalizations due to exacerbations account for more than 50 percent of the cost of managing COPD in North America and Europe.
In the second study, researchers from the University of Texas analyzed data from a random sample of five percent of Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with COPD between 2001 and 2011. They found that 22.3 percent of those patients had one or more psychological disorders.
The findings showed that the odds of 30-day readmission were higher in patients with COPD who had depression, anxiety, psychosis, alcohol abuse, and drug abuse compared to COPD patients who did not have these disorders.
“The prevalence of depression alongside COPD found in these two studies is alarming. Pulmonologists should consider the findings of this research when treating patients with COPD,” said Dr. John Studdard, President-Designate, American College of Chest Physicians.
“The impact of depression coupled with COPD on quality of life, exacerbation likelihood and readmissions should be further explored.”