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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’s impact on mental health

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Between 20-60% of people with COPD Between 20-60% of people with COPD have concomitant anxiety and depression

In primary care, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are offered regular reviews, based on the severity of their disease. These reviews focus primarily on their respiratory symptoms (shortness of breath, for example) and interventions such as inhaled therapies, smoking cessation and the provision of rescue packs for exacerbations.

However, people with COPD are also at increased risk of mental health problems related to their condition.1 These are not routinely assessed as part of the review and yet having a mental health problem can impact on symptom control, self-mastery, exacerbation risk and mortality.2

In this article, we consider why people with COPD suffer from mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and argue that mental health assessments should be a standard part of the annual review for those with a diagnosis of COPD. We also discuss how mental health problems can impact on the management of COPD and what general practice nurses (GPNs) can offer to people diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

It is known that anyone who has a long term condition is at increased risk of having a co-existing mental health problem such as anxiety or depression and also that current provision of mental health support for people with long-term conditions is both inadequate and costly.3

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