Though several biologic factors have been suggested to play a role in the development and persistence of severe asthma, those associated with psychologic factors remain poorly understood. This study assessed levels of psychologic distress and a range of disease-relevant emotional and behavioral coping styles in patients with severe vs moderate asthma.
Eighty-four patients (50% women, mean [M] age 46 years) with severe (n = 42) and moderate (n = 42) asthma were recruited. Severe asthma was defined according to American Thoracic Society criteria. Patients underwent demographic and medical history interviews and pulmonary function and allergy testing. Patients also completed questionnaires measuring asthma symptoms and the Millon Behavioral Medicine Diagnostic Inventory, which assesses psychologic distress and emotional/behavioral coping factors that influence disease progression and treatment.
After adjustment for covariates and applying a correction factor that reduced the significant P level to < .01, patients with severe vs moderate asthma reported experiencing more psychologic distress, including worse cognitive dysfunction (F = 6.72, P < .01) and marginally worse anxiety-tension (F = 4.02, P < .05). They also reported worse emotional coping (higher illness apprehension [F = 9.57, P < .01], pain sensitivity [F = 10.65, P < .01], future pessimism [F= 8.53, P < .01], and interventional fragility [F = 7.18, P < .01]), and marginally worse behavioral coping (more functional deficits [F = 5.48, P < .05] and problematic compliance [F = 4.32, P < .05]).
Patients with severe asthma have more psychologic distress and difficulty coping with their disease, both emotionally and behaviorally, relative to patients with moderate asthma. Future treatment studies should focus on helping patients with severe asthma manage distress and cope more effectively with their illness, which may improve outcomes in these high-risk patients.