Background: The aim of our study was to assess the prevalence of anxiety and depression in the whole chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) population and in subgroups according to sex and severity classification. A secondary objective was to evaluate the possible differences between patients with and without a significant high level of anxiety, depression, or both, and finally to find out a correlation between psychological aspects, symptoms, functional parameters, and quality of life (QoL).
Methods: Two hundred and two COPD patients were enrolled. Their levels of anxiety, depression, dyspnea, and QoL were assessed using specific questionnaires. One hundred and fourteen sex- and age-matched healthy subjects were used as the control population.
Results: The prevalences of anxiety and depression were high (28.2% and 18.8%) in COPD even when it was of mild degree, compared to the control group, in which the prevalence of anxiety and depression were 6.1% and 3.5%, respectively. Female patients had higher levels of anxiety and depression and worse symptom-related QoL. Female patients reported a higher level of dyspnea than males for the same level of ventilatory impairment. Dyspnea was more strongly correlated with depression in women than in men.
Conclusions: Anxiety and depressive symptoms are common in patients affected by COPD, even when their disease is mild in terms of FEV1 and respiratory symptoms. Female patients appear to be more exposed to psychological impairment, which correlates well with some specific symptomatic aspects of the disease, such as dyspnea. Psychological aspects need to be carefully assessed in COPD patients, particularly in females.