Mental health problems, obstructive lung disease and lung function: findings from the general population

J Psychosom Res. 2011 Sep;71(3):174-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Apr 22.


Objective: There is cumulative evidence for a strong association of obstructive lung disease, i.e. asthma and COPD, with poor mental health, particularly with anxiety disorders and major depression. However, studies relating mental health problems to objective measures of lung function as assessed by spirometry are lacking.

Methods: The 12-month prevalence of specific psychopathological syndromes among 1772 adults from the general population was estimated by a structured interview. Additionally, participants underwent spirometry and were asked about obstructive lung disease in the year prior to the study. Logistic and linear regression models were used to relate obstructive lung disease and spirometrically defined airway obstruction to mental health problems.

Results: Mental health problems were found in 35.7% of the participants. After adjusted for sociodemographic, clinical and life-style factors, asthma and chronic bronchitis were associated with almost all domains of mental health problems. In contrast, independent of its definition, spirometric airflow limitation was only related to generalized anxiety (odds ratios ranging from 2.3 to 2.7). A reduced ratio of forced expiratory volume in one second to forced vital capacity was associated with mental health problems in general and panic and general anxiety in particular.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest an association of objective measure of airflow limitation to generalized anxiety and panic. While the causal relationship between obstructive lung disease, airflow limitation and anxiety remains to be determined, clinicians should pay diagnostic attention to the significant overlap of these conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Spirometry