Purpose: Chronic lung diseases are typically associated with impaired quality of life, stress, and anxiety. Written disclosure therapy (WDT) reduces stress in patients with a variety of chronic illnesses. We sought to determine whether WDT benefits patients with chronic lung disease.
Methods: A prospective, randomized, controlled trial was performed to evaluate the effect of using WDT in patients (N = 66) participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Patients were randomly assigned to write about a particularly traumatic life event (WDT group) or to write about an emotionally neutral subject (control group). Exercise capacity, dyspnea and quality of life, and values of spirometry were recorded at baseline, at the end of the program, and at 6 months.
Results: The 6-minute walk distance (6MWD) significantly improved in both groups at 2 months, from 278 to 327 m in WDT and from 269 to 314 m in control groups (P < .01 in both groups). There was no difference in improvement in 6MWD between groups (P = .88). At 6 months, the gains made in 6MWD were no longer present. Dyspnea severity, as well as most of the other domains of the Chronic Respiratory Disease Questionnaire and the St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire, showed improvement within each group, but not between WDT and control groups.
Conclusion: WDT did not add any additional benefit in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis when included as a component of pulmonary rehabilitation. These results are in contrast to previously seen benefits in patients with asthma.