Chronic Depression in COPD Patients Harms Health

Nearly one in four people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have symptoms of persistent depression, a recent study suggests. Left untreated, symptoms can adversely affect the overall health and effectiveness of COPD therapy.

Investigators analyzed data from almost 1,600 patients with COPD. Depressive symptoms were measured at baseline and at a three-year follow-up visit using a self-reported depression scale (CES-D). Study participants rated the 20 items on a four–point scale (0–3). Depression was defined as a CES-D score equal to or greater than 16 and current use of antidepressants.

The investigators found that 24 percent of the patients were persistently depressed. Study participants with persistent depression had more advanced COPD and poorer outcomes than those who did not experience enduring symptoms. Persistently depressed patients had greater airflow limitations, walked shorter distances during the six-minute walk test, and had more fatigue and trouble breathing.

In addition, 14 percent of COPD patients had new-onset depression. Those with more severe lung function impairment were at greater risk.

Bottom line: Antidepression treatment may lead to better outcomes for people who have COPD. If you have symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor about getting treatment, and if you’re already being treated be sure to let your doctor know whether the therapy is or is not working.

Source: Chest, April 2016

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HealthAfter50 was published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, providing up-to-date, evidence-based research and expert advice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of a wide range of health conditions affecting adults in middle age and beyond. It was previously part of Remedy Health Media's network of digital and print publications, which also include HealthCentral; HIV/AIDS resources The Body and The Body Pro; the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; and the Berkeley Wellness website. All content from HA50 merged into in 2018.