COPD Patients Appear More Likely to Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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COPD and anxiety disorders

In a new study, researchers at the University of Toronto investigated the independent relationship between chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and past-year generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and found that the prevalence of anxiety is much higher among older adults with COPD than in older adults without the disease.

The research article, “Understanding the Association Between Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Current Anxiety: A Population-Based Study,” was published in COPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Researchers performed a series of analyses in a sample of 11,163 respondents (more than 700 with a confirmed COPD diagnosis), aged 50 or older, from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey–Mental Health. Also analyzed were other variables such as socio-demographic factors; social support; health behaviors; sleep problems; pain; functional limitations; and early childhood adversities, along with their effect on COPD and generalized anxiety disorder.

Researchers determined than 1 in 17 subjects — about 5.8 percent — with COPD had past-year GAD, while only 1.7 percent of older individuals without COPD presented past-year GAD. Also, after full adjustment to 18 possible risk factors, individuals with COPD still had about 70 percent higher odds of suffering from GAD than those without COPD.

Research into the risk factors that may predict the development of GAD among individuals with COPD found some factors associated with the conditions. Not having a confidante resulted in seven times higher odds of having GAD. In addition, exposure to parental domestic violence during childhood and lifetime depressive disorders were also strong predictors of GAD.

Importantly, the research team found that individuals with COPD who were exposed in childhood to parental domestic violence more than 10 times had five times the odds of GAD, when compared to those with COPD who had not experienced such traumatizing events. Researchers believe that future research is warranted to further understand how witnessing chronic parental domestic violence during childhood may increase GAD.

“Our findings suggest that screening for anxiety may be particularly important for patients who lack a strong social network. Individuals with COPD may be prone to social isolation, particularly if they also experience functional limitations that impair mobility,” co-author and doctoral student Ashley Lacombe-Duncan said in a press release. Such results highlight the importance of early intervention by multidisciplinary medical teams for anxiety and pain reduction.