Physical activity and quality of life in subjects with chronic disease: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes mellitus

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2009;27(3):141-7. doi: 10.1080/02813430902808643.


Objective: Chronic diseases interfere with the life situation of the affected person in different ways. The aim was to compare the burden of disease in three chronic diseases - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), diabetes mellitus (DM) - and in healthy subjects, with a particular interest in physical activity, quality of life, and psychological health.

Design: Cross-sectional, observational study.

Setting and subjects: Postal survey questionnaire to a stratified, random population of 68 460 subjects aged 18-84 years in Sweden. The subjects included were 40-84 years old (n = 43 589) and data were analysed for COPD (n = 526), RA (n = 1120), DM (n = 2149) and healthy subjects (n = 6960).

Result: Some 84% of subjects with COPD, 74% (RA), 72% (DM), and 60% in healthy subjects (p < 0.001, COPD versus RA, DM, and healthy subjects) had a physical activity level considered too low to maintain good health according to guidelines. Quality of life (EuroQol five-dimension questionnaire, EQ-5D) was lower in COPD and RA than in DM. Anxiety/depression was more common in subjects with COPD (53%) than in those with RA (48%) and DM (35%) (p < 0.001, COPD versus RA and DM), whereas mobility problems were more common in RA (55%) than COPD (48%) and DM (36%) (p < 0.001, RA versus COPD and DM). All differences between groups remained significant after adjusting for age, sex, and socioeconomic background factors.

Conclusion: Subjects with chronic diseases had a low level of physical activity, most evident in subjects with COPD. COPD and RA had a higher negative impact on quality of life than DM. Our results indicate that increased attention regarding physical inactivity in subjects with chronic diseases is needed to minimize the burden of disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult