The 6-minute walk test is generally considered a standard test for the evaluation of short-term maximal physical performance. It has not been evaluated whether psychological factors, such as anxiety or depression, affect the performance or the results of the test. The main aim of this study was to investigate whether a correlation exists between psychological factors and the data from the 6-minute walking test. The study cohort consisted of 85 (O = 34 and O = 51) 66 ± 10 (mean ± SD) year-old patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) hospitalized for disease exacerbation. Forced Expiratory Volume in the first second (FEV1) (% predicted) as predictor for lung function, as well as anxiety and depression symptoms assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) as psychological predictors were collected. Bivariate correlations and hierarchical linear regression models were used to analyse the correlations. Walking distance was on average 260m ± 107m and ranged from 64m to 480m. HADS was negatively correlated with 6-min walking distance (r = 0.441, p = .0009, r = -.523, p = 00006). Hierarchical linear regression showed that FEV1 alone explained 33%, and together with the psychological variables anxiety and depression explained 42% of the variance of results from the 6-minute walking test. These findings demonstrated that 11% of the data correlated with the psychological variables alone (p = .011). The effect size for lung function (f2 = .717) and psychological variables (f2 = .352) were high, whereas the socio-demographic variables sex, age, educational level and BMI could not explain any additional variance in our cohort. In conclusion, our study indicates that psychological factors such as symptoms of depression and anxiety are associated with lower physical functional performance in the 6-minute walking test. As such, these factors should also be assessed. Future research is needed to show if treatments of anxiety and depression can improve the walking distance in COPD patients.
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