Physical Activity Reduces Anxiety and Depression in COPD Patients

A new study shows that increased physical activity among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) reduces their risk of anxiety or depression.

According to researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, comorbidities — other health conditions — are highly prevalent in patients with COPD. Low physical activity, a critical feature of COPD, is believed to be an important risk factor for comorbidities.

The study, presented at the 2016 European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress, included 409 patients from primary care practice in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The researchers assessed physical activity using the Longitudinal Ageing Study Amsterdam Physical Activity Questionnaire at baseline and then followed patients for up to five years.

During follow-up, patients reported their comorbidities — cardiovascular, neurological, hormonal, musculoskeletal, cancer, and infectious diseases — and completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire for mental health assessment.

The results suggested that higher levels of physical activity at baseline were associated with an 11 percent reduced risk of developing anxiety over the next five years, and a 15 percent reduced risk of becoming depressed.

The researchers note they did not observe statistically significant associations of physical activity with the other categories of comorbidities.

“In COPD patients, those with high physical activity are less likely to develop depression or anxiety over time,” the researchers said. “Physical activity promotion programs may be considered to lower the burden of mental disorders in COPD patients.”

The findings have “particular significance” since mental disorders are common in patients with COPD, the researchers add.

The prevalence of depression and anxiety is approximately 40 percent in COPD patients, compared to less than 10 percent in the general population, they noted.

Source: European Lung Foundation