The pivotal objective of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) self-management programmes is behaviour change to avoid moderate and severe exacerbations and improve health related quality of life.In a prospectively planned, controlled study, COPD patients who participated in the "Living well with COPD" (LWWCOPD) self-management intervention were compared with usual care patients from the primary care COPD Cohort ICE COLD ERIC, who did not receive self-management intervention (NCT00706602) The primary outcome was behaviour change and disease-specific health related quality of life after 1 year. Secondary end-points included exacerbation rates. We calculated mixed linear, zero-inflated negative binomial and logistic regression models and used propensity scores to counteract confounding.467 patients, 71 from the LWWCOPD and 396 from the usual care cohort, were included. The differences between intervention and control were 0.54 (95% CI 0.13-0.94) on the Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire domain "mastery", 0.55 (95% CI 0.11-0.99) on "fatigue", 0.54 (0.14-0.93) on "emotional function" and 0.64 (95% CI 0.14-1.14) on "dyspnoea". The intervention considerably reduced the risk of moderate and severe exacerbations (incidence rate ratio 0.36, 95% CI 0.25-0.52).Self-management coaching in primary care improves health-related quality of life and lowers exacerbation rates and health care use.