While many people have heard of asthma, as it's a common condition affecting 5.4 million people in the UK alone*, not many recognise just how debilitating the condition can be.
In medical terms, every 10 seconds someone has an asthma attack that could be life threatening*. While the NHS spends a billion pounds a year on average treating the condition, hospitalisations rack up to almost 80,000 in just one year*.
As well as the physical impacts of the condition, the consequences of asthma on sufferers’ mental health can also be significant.
A survey by Opinion Health on behalf of the pharmaceutical company Chiesi Limited posed questions to 500 adults diagnosed with asthma across the UK and the results showed that nearly half of asthma sufferers had been diagnosed with a psychological condition including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders.**
The survey, ‘Getting it off your chest: revealing the psychological impact of asthma, Opinion Health, 2020′ also found that just over half are worried about their condition, with over a third saying that it impacts their stress levels.**
In addition, more than one-quarter of participants had been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, while just under a third of participants had been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.** Of those, worryingly, just under half said that their psychological condition had worsened their asthma symptoms and one in three people stated that their disorder had been directly caused by asthma.**
For many people with mental health problems, exercise and a proper sleeping routine can be helpful***. However, the findings show that more than half of those struggling with asthma also find it difficult to exercise, sleep and their mood is negatively impacted by the condition.**
From the research, it’s clear that asthma is a vastly under-rated problem across the country when it comes to mental health, and now medical experts are advising that more help needs to be given to adults with asthma to help them cope.
What is being done to help adults with asthma with their mental health?
Despite the clear negative impact that asthma is having on people’s mental health, according to the survey, eight out of ten sufferers have never had a conversation with their healthcare professional about it.**
These numbers are especially concerning as almost half confirmed that they believe psychological support would help them manage the emotional impact of asthma, but 23% of those that answered the survey said that they don’t feel confident in asking their healthcare provider for help.**
As Dr Daniel O’Toole, Consultant Clinical Psychologist says “These results highlight the unmet need faced by adult asthma sufferers in the UK.”
“Although we have made some progress in helping adults with asthma better control their condition, the findings demonstrate there is much more to be done to support them by improving the psychological care provided. This need is likely to be more prominent now during the COVID-19 pandemic where lockdown and ‘shielding’ measures can lead to, amongst others, increased feelings of worry, anxiety and isolation.”
Respiratory Nurse Consultant at University Hospital Leicester, Jane Scullion, agrees. She says, “This is a difficult time for everyone, especially adults with asthma who are classed as high risk of severe complications from COVID-19.”
“Now more than ever we need to support them, so they can live the best lives that they can – these results provide us with some suggestions of how we can best do this.”
With this in mind and the evidence collected by the survey, we can hope that adult asthma patients will be given more help in the future to manage the difficult mental health issues related to their condition.
This article has been developed and funded by pharmaceutical company © Chiesi Limited
[Job code: UK-RES-2000600 Date of prep: October 2020]
* Asthma UK. Asthma facts and statistics. Available at: https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/facts-and-statistics/. Last accessed: October 2020.
** Getting it off your chest: revealing the psychological impact of asthma, Opinion Health, 2020
*** The Mental Health Foundation. 2016. The importance of sleep. Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/importance-sleep. Last accessed: October 2020