Depression and Anxiety Common in IPF Patients with Impact on Quality of Life, Study Finds


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Patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) are prone to depression and anxiety, which clearly affects their quality of life  — regardless of age, gender or disease’s severity as measured in pulmonary function tests, researchers in Korea report.

The scientists also suggest that these people may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling by professionals, although this was not their focus.

Their study, “Clinical impact of depression and anxiety in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis,” was  published in the journal PloS One.

Previous research has found that between 24.3% and 49.2% of IPF patients have depression, and up to 60% report feelings of anxiety. The high prevalence of such psychological problems is thought to be due to the overall severity of IPF and the daily challenges patients face.

The association between depression, anxiety, and a patient’s quality of life is well-recognized in  pulmonary conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In IPF, depression is seen as a key contributor to poor health-related quality of life, but little research has gone into looking at anxiety and IPF.

Researchers at Seoul National University Hospital and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, in Korea, evaluated the impact of treatment for depression and anxiety on quality of life and pulmonary function in IPF patients.

“To our knowledge, the present study is the first study to prospectively investigate the effects of depression and anxiety on clinical outcomes such as mortality and hospitalization in patients with IPF,” the researchers wrote.

A total of 112 IPF patients were included in the study, and followed for a median of 23.6 months.

The scientists observed that 25.9% of the patients had signs of depression, and 21.4% exhibited symptoms of anxiety.

“Considering that the prevalence of major depressive disorder in the general Korean population is between 3.5 – 4.4%, our results indicate that patients with IPF are at increased risk for experiencing depression,” the team wrote.

No significant differences were found regarding age, sex, demographic data, smoking status, pulmonary function tests, and dyspnea (shortness of breath) scores between patients with and without depression or anxiety.

The number of hospital admissions and survival rate also did not differ between the two groups of patients studied.

However, the team found that IPF patients with depression had scores 1.8 times higher on the St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) than scores of other patients. SGRQ is used to determine social-related quality of life in patients with obstructive airway diseases.

Total SGRQ scores were also 1.7 times higher in those with evidence of anxiety, compared to those without.

“Our findings indicate that depression and anxiety are relatively common in patients with IPF,” the researchers concluded. “Although no significant differences were noted with regard to survival rate and hospitalization, the present study suggests that depression and anxiety significantly influence quality of life in patients with IPF.”

Research looking into the effects of treatments for these conditions — antidepressants and anxiolytics — on IPF patients’ quality of life, and the conditions’ potential impact on disease progression are still required, the team suggested.