Fatigue in chronic illness: the experience of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and with asthma

J Adv Nurs. 1999 Aug;30(2):469-78. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1999.01102.x.


Although fatigue has been identified as a major problem for individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and with asthma, no research was found in which the symptom was directly studied in persons with these conditions. From studies carried out on various patient populations, it appears that fatigue has some specificity to disease state. Thus, it is important to describe the experience of fatigue within patient populations. To expand theoretical understanding of fatigue, qualitative research methods need to be applied. The purpose of this study therefore was to describe and compare the fatigue experiences of persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (n=17) and with asthma (n=19). Data were obtained by use of a semi-structured questionnaire and were content analysed for categories and themes. There were many similarities between the fatigue experiences of the two groups. Fatigue is inextricably linked to laboured breathing. Although it interferes with their ability to carry out meaningful activities, the majority of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma cope well with it. The informants identified two types of coping strategies they use to manage their situation, which may be categorized as: problem-focused, including energy conservation, utilization and restoration; and emotion-focused, including being positive, accepting the physical limitations, distracting and normalizing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Asthma / rehabilitation
  • Emotions
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / psychology*
  • Fatigue / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / complications
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / psychology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / rehabilitation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Support