How people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease perceive their illness: A qualitative study between mind and body

Marta Pozzar, Eleonora Volpato, Chiara Valota, Francesco Pagnini, Paolo Innocente Banfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Although many studies on people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have examined the mutual impact of physical status and emotional experience, there is limited knowledge about the way COPD people first-hand perceive their condition. This study was designed to investigate the illness perceptions of the patients and, secondarily, to explore their beliefs about the mind-body relationship. Methods: This qualitative study has exploited an ad-hoc semi-structured interview to collect personal perspectives of participants on their illness. Twenty-seven patients (15 males and 12 females), with a mild to severe COPD, were recruited within the Respiratory Rehabilitation Unit of Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, in Milan. The thematic analysis of the interviews' content was facilitated by NVivo (12th version, QSR International®). Results: The thematic analysis of the corpus resulted in four master themes. Illness experience has been considered the primary one. Indeed, dealing with COPD every day allows these people to portray a specific representation of the mind-body relationship, to gain a certain degree of expertise and to develop a perspective on the future. Conclusions: Individual perceptions of the illness vary among people with COPD, but some common experiences characterize them. Many patients share a profound belief that their mental state and their physical symptoms are highly interrelated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120
JournalBMC Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 4 2020


  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Illness perception
  • Mind/body connection
  • Patient's experience
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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