In this narrative review, we put self-management in the context of a 50-year history of research about how patients with COPD respond to their illness. We review a definition of self-management, and emphasize that self-management should be combined with disease management and the chronic care model in order to be effective. Reviewing the empirical status of self-management in COPD, we conclude that self-management is part and parcel of modern, patient-oriented biopsychosocial care. In pulmonary rehabilitation programs, self-management is instrumental in improving patients' functional status and quality of life. We conclude by emphasizing how studying the way persons with COPD make sense of their illness helps in refining self-management, and thereby patient-reported outcomes in COPD.
Keywords: biopsychosocial model; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; medical humanities; psychology; quality of life; self-management.