Improving quality of life is one of the most important goals in health care, particularly in the treatment of chronic conditions. Emotions can play a critical role in the quality of life of individuals with chronic conditions. For example in individuals diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the planet, more than one third experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, fear of breathlessness, and depressive symptoms – all of which are associated with poor outcomes, like hospitalizations. 1
EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE & COPD We recently looked to a large group of COPD patients to study the relationship between emotional intelligence, quality of life, and how the patients deal with their chronic illness and its physical, social, and psychological consequences – also known as self-management abilities. 2
Our hypothesis was that emotional intelligence, or the ability to understand and regulate emotions, may serve as a buffer against negative emotions and alter illness perception. In other words, “the ability to reduce the impact of emotions may have the potential to influence what it means to live with a chronic disease.”
We assessed emotional intelligence by asking participants to identify their way of dealing with emotions with a well-establish scientific questionnaire that inquired about their ability to express emotions when they want to or how often they pause and think about feelings.
We confirmed our hypothesis and found that higher levels of emotional intelligence independently corresponded with increased quality of life and with increased self-management abilities, regardless of age or disease severity. Additionally, higher emotional intelligence was linked with lower odds of visiting the Emergency Department. This finding provides an opportunity to lower health care utilization, and in turn lower health care costs.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER? Given that emotional intelligence is a highly trainable skill that can be learned at any age, it may represent a unique opportunity to complement existing treatment plans with the specific intention of improving the quality of life of people suffering from chronic conditions. We fully recognize that being more emotionally intelligent is meaningless unless tangible, real-life experiences are improved.
HOW CAN YOU BOOST YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE? Mindfulness training is the foundation of emotional intelligence programs currently found in the corporate world. One way to practice mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation , which was found by a recent study to be associated with significantly higher scores on measures of emotional intelligence.
In essence, emotional intelligence, which can be learned at any time in life, may be a “smart” tool to help individuals live better with a chronic condition and can be a novel tool to be incorporated into current treatment programs for chronic conditions.
We wish you well.
1 Abascal-Bolado, B., Novotny, P. J., Sloan, J. A., Karpman, C., Dulohery, M. M., & Benzo, R. P. (2015). Forecasting COPD hospitalization in the clinic: optimizing the chronic respiratory questionnaire. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 10, 2295–2301.
2 Roberto P. Benzo, Janae L. Kirsch, Megan M. Dulohery, and Beatriz Abascal-Bolado "Emotional Intelligence: A Novel Outcome Associated with Wellbeing and Self-Management in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease", Annals of the American Thoracic Society, Vol. 13, No. 1(2016), pp. 10-16.
[PMA1]Link to post #2, 15 tips on meditation