Background: Over 2 million people in Europe are affected by ulcerative colitis, which often severely impacts the quality of life of those concerned. Among other factors, lifestyle and psychosocial factors seem to play an important role in pathogenesis and course of the disease and can be addressed as a complement to pharmacotherapy in comprehensive lifestyle modification programs.
Methods: This qualitative study as part of a mixed methods approach was carried out in the framework of a randomized controlled trial that examined the effect of a comprehensive lifestyle-modification-program (10-week-day clinic program) on quality of life in patients with ulcerative colitis. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 out of 47 patients of the intervention group after the program. The aim was to deepen, supplement, and expand the quantitative results of the trial, i.e. to examine individual perceptions of the intervention, including subjective changes and the extent to which elements of the program were integrated into everyday life. Qualitative content analysis techniques utilizing the software MAXQDA were used.
Results: Patients with ulcerative colitis in our sample often experienced multiple negative effects on different levels (physical, psychological, and social) and impaired quality of life because of their disease. They reported generally positively about the program itself, and emphasized perceived positive changes regarding their psychological and physical well-being. The interviews indicated a good implementation of elements learned during the intervention in everyday life.
Conclusions: Through participation in a comprehensive lifestyle modification program in the structure of a day clinic complementary to pharmacotherapy, patients with ulcerative colitis can reduce psychosocial stress and physical symptoms and thereby actively improve their well-being and general quality of life. This patient-centered, holistic approach was rated as useful in countering the complex disease manifestation as well as meeting the individual needs of the patients regarding their disease.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov NCT02721823.
Keywords: Complementary medicine; Lifestyle modification; Mind-body-medicine; Qualitative methods; Stress reduction; Ulcerative colitis.
© 2022. The Author(s).