Objectives. Comorbid anxiety is highly prevalent in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and it is related to increased morbidity and mortality. It has consistently been found that social comparison has substantial impact on mood. However, despite the strong social component of pulmonary rehabilitation, the effect of social comparison processes on anxiety has not been explored in this context.
Design. Participants were 43 COPD patients enrolled in a 3-week pulmonary rehabilitation programme. We tested in a longitudinal design the relationship between social comparison and assimilation and contrast at the beginning of rehabilitation and anxious mood at the end of the programme.
Methods. Using moderator analysis, we tested whether perceived similarities and differences to upward and downward social comparison standards influence the relationship between comparison direction at the beginning of the programme and anxious mood at the end of the programme.
Results. The relationship between social comparison at the start of rehabilitation and anxious mood at the end of the programme was dependent on assimilation and contrast to upward and downward standards. Downward assimilation and upward contrast were related to a stronger relationship of upward and downward social comparison and anxious mood.
Conclusion. This study demonstrates the important role of social comparison focus in moderating beneficial effects of pulmonary rehabilitation. Downward assimilation and upward contrast might be important targets in reducing anxiety in pulmonary rehabilitation.