Loneliness in COPD patients related to worse health perceptions, increased ED visits
Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who feel lonely and socially isolated are more likely to visit the emergency department (ED), with their perceived health status being poor, a study has shown.
Researchers looked at 1,217 patients (mean age, 65 years; 47 percent female) with moderate-to-severe COPD who participated in the National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT). Mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1)% predicted was 41.
Of the patients who completed the Quality of Wellbeing questionnaires, which asked about loneliness and social isolation, 96 (7.9 percent) reported feeling lonely. These patients were more likely to be women (11 percent vs 6 percent) and have lower 6-minute walk test (6MWT) distances, poorer overall health ratings and increased breathlessness.
Logistic regression analysis revealed loneliness to be significantly associated with increased healthcare utilization, as represented by the likelihood of visiting the ED in the 5 years of follow-up. Relative to those who were not lonely, patients who felt lonely were about 50-percent more likely to make an ED visit (odds ratio [OR], 1.57, 95 percent CI, 1.005–2.466; p=0.04).
Furthermore, loneliness negatively affected the overall perception of general health (p≤0.0001), with lonely patients having health ratings of 9.9 points lower than those of other patients.
In light of the present data, the researchers called for frequent assessment of loneliness in COPD patients in routine practice. They believe that addressing loneliness in the outpatient setting may ultimately contribute to reducing ED visits and improved quality of life in this population.