Objectives: To estimate the clinical effect of pulmonary rehabilitation (with or without education) on anxiety and depression in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Secondary outcomes were generic and disease-specific health-related quality of life (HRQOL).
Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis of primary outcomes to calculate mean change effect sizes [standardized mean difference (SMD)] and associated 95% CIs.
Results: Six randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared pulmonary rehabilitation with standard care (with or without education) were included in the review. Three studies (n=269) showed that comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation was significantly more effective than standard care in reducing short-term anxiety (SMD=-0.33, 95% CI: -0.57 to -0.09, P=.008) and depression (SMD=-0.58, 95% CI: -0.93 to -0.23, P=.001). Education alone and exercise training alone were not associated with significant reductions in either anxiety or depression. When compared with standard care, comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation was also associated with short-term significant gains in both disease-specific and generic HRQOL. Studies that included long-term follow-up data showed that gains in both psychological health status and HRQOL were not sustained at 12 months.
Conclusions: Rehabilitation programmes that include up to three sessions per week of incremental and supervised exercise, along with education and psychosocial support, significantly reduce anxiety and depression more than standard care in patients with COPD. Further research should focus on exploring effective and acceptable maintenance strategies along with evaluations of stepped care approaches for the management of psychological co-morbidity, especially among those with severe anxiety and depression.