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Respir Med. 2003 Jul;97(7):747-61.

Coping as a mediator of psychosocial impediments to optimal management and control of asthma.

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Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Central and Eastern Clinical School, Monash University, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria 3004, Australia.


Adherence to asthma medication regimens by asthma patients is often poor and contributes to the continued and substantial burden of asthma in the community. There is evidence of increased rates of behavioural problems, anxiety and depression in people with moderate-to-severe asthma and these factors may interfere with adherence and contribute to poor asthma control. An alternative explanation is that the relationship between feelings of anxiety and depression, and adherence to the treatment regimen may be more accurately predicted from the coping styles used, rather than the experience of asthma itself. The objective of this paper was to review evidence for associations between coping strategies used by asthma patients, asthma management and health outcomes. The Medline and PsychInfo databases were searched for articles containing the terms "asthma" and "coping". Patients with asthma tended to use different strategies for coping with stress and illness compared to healthy participants and individuals with other chronic illnesses. Emotion-focussed coping strategies such as denial were commonly used by patients with poor medication adherence, those who attended emergency departments for asthma, were admitted to hospital for asthma, or suffered near-fatal asthma attacks. Interventions to improve coping strategies have been effective in reducing symptoms and psychological distress. The availability of coping resources to patients and/or their caregivers and the coping strategies that are used are likely to mediate the influence of psychosocial factors on the management of asthma. Further studies exploring the ways in which individuals cope with asthma will improve our understanding of the mechanisms linking psychological and social status to asthma morbidity and mortality.

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