Coaching patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to manage stress, practice relaxation and participate in light exercise can boost a patient’s quality of life and can even improve physical symptoms, researchers at Duke Medicine report.

In a study published online Sept. 25, 2014, in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Duke researchers examined how telephone-based coaching could help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a progressive disease that limits airflow in the lungs.

During the five-year study, which was based at Duke University Health System and Ohio State University, participants who received coping skills training reported improvements in their overall mental health, and lessened depression, anxiety, fatigue and shortness of breath when compared to the control group.

“Our work has established an innovative and important intervention that could improve patient quality of life. Although it has not translated into improved survival rates, this approach is worthy of further investigation,” said author Scott Palmer, M.D., MHS, an associate professor of pulmonary medicine at Duke and medical director of the project.