Aim: To unpack and interpret descriptions of experiences of social relationships during pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) for people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Method: Inspired by interpretive phenomenology, individual qualitative interviews were conducted twice with 18 persons from COPD rehabilitation units in two general hospitals. Qualitative content analysis was performed.
Results: Analysis of the interviews revealed the overarching theme of belonging. The participants emphasised social integration in rehabilitation groups as well as support from peers and health-care personnel as important dimensions of social relationships with regard to PR. Active participation in and engagement with the groups provided opportunities for patients to share their knowledge, encouraged mutual trust, and support and increased self-confidence, and motivation for self-care and further social participation. Integration in the groups and perceived support during PR made coping and adaptation easier and had a positive effect on quality of life.
Conclusions: Patients' perspectives on PR were strongly influenced by certain facets of social relationships, such as social integration and social support. Patients', peers' and health-care professionals' strategies to promote social support and social integration should be further explored in the future, both in different contexts and for longer periods of time.