Asthma: Some Patients Need More Instruction

September 30, 2016
Dava Stewart

Asthma patients who are younger, have poor mental health, or are recently diagnosed have greater treatment needs,a German study found.

Asthma patients who are younger, have poor mental health, or are recently diagnosed have greater treatment needs, according to the results of a recent study. Conducted by Adrian Loerbroks, MSc, of the University of Dusseldorf, in Germany, and colleagues, the study was published in the journal Nature, on August 11, 2016.

The researchers aim, they say, was “to investigate the potential determinants of patients’ needs in asthmas treatment,” because those needs “remain insufficiently understood and met.” In order to achieve that aim, they used survey data from 189 adult asthma patients. “We considered age, sex, education, years since diagnosis and anxiety/depression as potential determinants,” they say.

The participants in the study were mostly middle aged (mean age 46.07), mostly female, and approximately half had attained the highest level of education. “In the present study population, the prevalence of unmet needs was substantial: 11 out of 13 needs were considered unmet by at least 29% of the participants,” report the researchers.

Younger participants and those who were more recently diagnosed needed more information about drugs and how to handle them, although, the researchers say, “women expressed less need of such information compared with men.” However, the researchers caution that men were underrepresented in this study and that finding should be interpreted cautiously.

Participants with anxiety and/or depression had more unmet needs than those without mental health symptoms. The researchers say, “Our study suggests that symptoms of depression/anxiety are mainly linked to the need for consideration of the patient’s expertise and the need for information and training that assist in coping with exacerbations,” adding that seems logical “given that exacerbations are a fear-laden topic among asthma patients.”

There are limitations to this study, including a dependence on self-reporting of asthma diagnoses, the cross-sectional design, and the lack of acquiring established psychiatric diagnoses for the participants. However, the researchers conclude, “If confirmed by future studies, our observations may assist healthcare professionals to identify asthma patients with potentially elevated needs based, for instance on their age, sex and the period of time since they received diagnosis.”