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January 2021

Survey reveals psychological burden in asthma

A significant proportion of people with asthma are suffering from worry, stress, anxiety, and low moods, a new survey reveals.

A survey conducted for the pharmaceutical company Chiesi has uncovered the significant pyschological impact of asthma on patients with the condition.  

The ‘Getting it off your chest: revealing the psychological impact of asthma’ survey of 500 adults with a diagnosis of asthma across the UK found that more than half (54.4%) are worried about their condition, with over a third (33.6%) saying that it impacts on their stress levels. Many have been diagnosed with depression (28.4%), anxiety disorders (30.8%) and bipolar disorders (2%). Of those with mental health disorders, almost half (47.8%) think their psychological condition has worsened their asthma symptoms with nearly a third (32.3%) stating that their psychological condition has, in fact, been caused by the burden of their asthma.

According to the survey, eight out of ten (81.2%) adults with asthma have never had a discussion with their healthcare professional about the psychological impact of their condition, and 77.4% have never been asked to complete a screening questionnaire regarding their psychological health. Even though 46.4% would find psychological support in their interactions with healthcare professionals useful to better manage the emotional impact of asthma, 23% of respondents said they do not feel confident asking their consultant, GP, primary care nurse or pharmacist for psychological help.

Dr Daniel O’Toole, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Citadel Psychology, commented: ‘These results highlight the unmet need faced by asthma sufferers in the UK. Although we have made some progress in helping adults with asthma better control their condition, the findings demonstrate there is much more to be done to support them by improving the psychological care provided. This need is likely to be more prominent now during the COVID-19 pandemic where lockdown and shielding measures can lead to, amongst others, increased feelings of worry, anxiety and isolation.

The survey also uncovered that only half (50.8%) of respondents have a personalised asthma management plan. There is evidence that people who are given a written asthma management plan are four times less likely to need hospital care for their asthma.

Dr Stephen Gaduzo, respiratory GPwSI, said: ‘People with asthma spend a very small proportion of their time consulting healthcare professionals about their condition, either for a review appointment or when they need advice in an emergency. So for the vast majority of time they are managing it themselves.

‘It’s therefore vital that healthcare professionals support them by providing tools and strategies that will enable them to best manage their condition at home, as well as ensuring there is support available beyond the clinic or hospital. Better routine management leads to better control of asthma, and ultimately reduces the need for emergency consultations either in general practice or in hospital.’

‘Getting it off your chest: revealing the psychological impact of asthma’ survey of 500 adult patients with asthma, carried out by Opinion Health on behalf of Chiesi Limited; 2020 [data on file]

Practice Nurse 2021;51(1): online only, 26 January 2021