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Breathing patterns, emotions and asthma

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The association between breathing and psychological state is reflected in common phrases such as 'having breathing room', 'waiting with baited breath' and 'they took my breath away'.

These phrases illustrate the shared understanding that breathing patterns are associated with emotions. This article explores this relationship in patients with a diagnosis of asthma. It also considers whether breathing training may help improve the psychological wellbeing and quality of life of patients with asthma.

Psychological morbidity

Asthma is associated with high levels of psychosocial morbidity such as anxiety disorders1 and depression2. This association is found consistently throughout the world. In a meta-analysis of surveys, which included face-to-face interviews with 85 000 people across 17 countries, respondents with asthma were more likely to report a range of psychosocial disorders than respondents without asthma3.

The probability of a respondent reporting 'any anxiety disorder' was 50 per cent more likely for those with asthma than those without (the pooled estimate of the odds ratio was 1.5, 95 per cent confidence interval (CI): 1.4-1.7). The odds ratios for other psychological disorders were similar: 1.6 (95 per cent CI: 1.4-1.8) for depression and 1.7 (95 per cent CI: 1.4-2.1) for alcohol abuse or dependence.

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