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Thorax. 1999 August; 54(8): 688–692.
PMCID: PMC1745552

Prevalence of depression in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review


BACKGROUND—Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have repeatedly been characterised as a population of chronically ill patients with a higher than normal prevalence of depression. Susceptibility for depression has been noted in patients with certain other chronic conditions. This systematic review was conducted to achieve a more definite answer to the question: do patients with COPD show a higher than normal prevalence of depression?
METHODS—Studies in English language journals were retrieved by an electronic search over the period from 1966 to December 1997 and by an extended search of reference lists, and were included or excluded according to a system of diagnostic and methodological criteria.
RESULTS—Ten studies were included, of which only four had a case-control design. Three of the case-control studies reported an increased prevalence of depression among patients with COPD which was statistically significant in only one. The fourth controlled study found a significantly increased depression score among COPD patients. Of the remaining six uncontrolled studies three found a high baseline prevalence of depression among their study group.
CONCLUSIONS—An association between COPD and depression was found in the four controlled studies. The two methodologically best conducted studies that did not detect a statistically significant higher prevalence lacked power. The two studies that did find a significant association used a questionable depression measure. The prevalence of depression was high compared with general population figures in three of six non-controlled studies. The empirical evidence for a significant risk of depression in patients with COPD remains inconclusive, due to the poor methodological quality of most of the published studies, the lack of studies with an adequate sample size, and variability in instruments and cut off scores used to measure depression.

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