Purpose of review: Outcome in asthma is determined not only by pulmonary function or other biomedical characteristics. An important determinant of asthma outcome is illness perceptions: patients' subjective beliefs and emotional responses to their illness. Illness perceptions influence patients' coping and self-management behavior, and thereby outcome.
Recent findings: We review recent studies on associations between illness perceptions and outcome in patients with asthma, with a range of respondents and caregivers, with varying degree of asthma severity, and in different settings of medical care. Most studies pertain to substantial numbers of patients, and have been performed in different countries, adding to the external validity of the findings. All studies report substantial effects of illness perceptions on various categories of outcome: illness perceptions reflecting personal control over the illness are associated with a positive outcome, that is, asthma control. Findings point at the importance and clinical relevance of addressing patients' illness perceptions, and suggest that this may improve outcome in asthma care. Well conducted intervention studies on this topic are called for in order to improve outcomes and quality of life in asthma patients.
Summary: Illness perceptions influence the way in which patients with asthma cope and their self-management of the illness. Illness perceptions can be assessed quite easily and directly, they inform healthcare providers about the psychosocial responses of patients towards their asthma, they are responsive to change in the clinical encounter or via self-management intervention training. Exploring patient's illness perceptions, therefore, is a crucial component of good clinical care.