Activities foregone because of chronic breathlessness: A cross-sectional, population prevalence study

Slavica Kochovska, Sungwon Chang, Deidre Morgan, Diana Ferreira, Manraaj Sidhu, Rayan Saleh Moussa, Miriam Johnson, Magnus Ekstrom, David Currow

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Background: Chronic breathlessness is a prevalent disabling syndrome affecting many people for years. Identifying the impact of chronic breathlessness on people's activities in the general population is pivotal for designing symptom management strategies.
Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the association between chronic breathlessness and activities respondents identify can no longer be undertaken (“activities forgone”).
Design: This population-based cross-sectional online survey used a market research company's database of 30,000 registrants for each sex, generating the planned sample size—3000 adults reflecting Australia's 2016 Census by sex, age group, state of residence, and rurality.
Setting/Subjects: The population of focus (n = 583) reported a modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) breathlessness scale ≥1 and experienced this breathlessness for ≥3 months.
Measurements: Activities forgone were categorized by mMRC using coding derived from the Dyspnea Management Questionnaire domains. Activities were classified as “higher/lower intensity” using Human Energy Expenditure scale.
Results: Respondents were male 50.3%; median age 50.0 (IQR 29.0); with 66% living in metropolitan areas; reporting 1749 activities forgone. For people with mMRC 1 (n = 533), 35% had not given up any activity, decreasing to 9% for mMRC 2 (n = 38) and 3% for mMRC 3–4 (n = 12). Intense sport (e.g., jogging and bike riding) was the top activity forgone: 42% (mMRC 1), 32% (mMRC 2), and 36% (mMRC 3–4). For respondents with mMRC 3–4, the next most prevalent activities forgone were “sexual activities” (14%), “lower intensity sports” (11%), and “other activities” (11%).
Conclusions: People progressively reduce a wide range of activities because of their chronic breathlessness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-170
Number of pages5
JournalPalliative Medicine Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

This Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • breathlessness
  • dyspnea
  • symptom
  • symptom assessment


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