Background: Many people have asthma, and for some their symptoms may be triggered by psychological factors. In addition compliance with medical therapy may have a psychological dimension. Therefore, psychological interventions aim to reduce the burden of symptoms and improve management of the disease.
Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of psychological interventions for adults with asthma.
Search strategy: The Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register and PsycINFO were searched with pre-defined terms up until August 2005.
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials published in any language assessing the effects of a psychological intervention compared with a form of control in adult participants were included in the review.
Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers assessed the relevance of abstracts identified by electronic searching and retrieved agreed studies for further scrutiny. The studies that met the inclusion criteria were assembled and data extracted.
Main results: Fourteen studies, involving 617 particpants, were included in the review, however study quality was poor and sample sizes were frequently small. However, some pooled effects were analysed. The use of 'as needed' medications was reduced in two studies, (47 patients), by relaxation therapy (OR 4.47, CI 1.22 to 16.44). There was no significant difference in FEV1 for relaxation therapy in four studies of 150 patients, (SMD -0.01, CI -0.41 to 0.40). Quality of life, measured using the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire in two studies, (48 patients), showed a positive effect following CBT (WMD 0.71, CI 0.23 to 1.19). Peak Expiratory Flow outcome data in two studies, (51 patients), indicated a significant difference in favour of bio-feedback therapy (SMD 0.66, CI 0.09 to 1.23). The remainder of the findings between studies were conflicting. This may have been due to the different types of interventions used and the deficiencies in trial design.
Authors' conclusions: This review was unable to draw firm conclusions for the role of psychological interventions in asthma due to the absence of an adequate evidence base. Larger, well-conducted and reported randomised trials are required in this area, in order to determine the effects of these techniques in the treatment of asthma in adults.