Objective: Patients' beliefs about their disease have been associated with emotional adjustment and outcomes in several severe illnesses. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether illness perceptions before pulmonary rehabilitation influence exercise capacity and quality of life after rehabilitation in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods: Ninety-six patients with COPD (GOLD III/IV) were approached on admission to rehabilitation and reassessed before discharge. Assessment included medical measures of FEV% predicted, and exercise capacity (6 min walk test). Additionally, depressive symptoms (Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale), anxiety (COPD specific anxiety questionnaire) and quality of life (Short Form 36 health survey (SF-36)) were assessed. Illness beliefs were measured by the Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R).
Results: Exercise capacity and psychological well-being (SF-36) of patients improved after rehabilitation programme, while physical functioning (SF-36) did not change. Additionally, patients showed significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms, COPD specific anxiety and negative perceptions of their illness after pulmonary rehabilitation compared to baseline. In the hierarchical multiple regression analyses, after controlling for socio-demographic data, psychological variables, illness severity and baseline scores of the corresponding variables, it was shown that illness perceptions before rehabilitation predicted exercise capacity and psychological well-being, both assessed at the end of treatment.
Conclusion: COPD patients' perceptions about their illness before rehabilitation influence exercise capacity and quality of life (psychological well-being) after treatment. Therefore it might be relevant to identify and change maladaptive illness perceptions in order to improve medical and psychological outcome in COPD.
Keywords: COPD; Exercise capacity; Illness perceptions; Pulmonary rehabilitation; Quality of life.
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