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When arthritis and depression coexist: Tips for the clinician

0 2 years ago

Key Takeaways

  • Research shows that 26% of American adults with arthritis experience depression which, in turn, can decrease response to arthritis treatment and compromise quality of life.
  • Clinicians are advised to screen arthritis patients for anxiety/depression, and offer treatment and referrals for psychotherapy, if indicated.
  • Clinicians can also counsel patients to remain physically active, and practice self-management, stress reduction, and other coping skills to decrease depression and arthritis symptoms.

Depression and anxiety are common comorbidities. In total, 43.2% of Americans have arthritis-induced activity limitations, and 26.2% of adults with arthritis struggle with depression, compared with 10.7% of those without arthritis.

Depression in different arthritis types

In a 2017 article published in Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, authors expatiate the relationship between depression and different types of arthritis. They cited that the prevalence of depression varied from 4.0% to 66.2% in those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The authors qualified their findings by mentioning that studies examining the prevalence of comorbid OA and depression were inconclusive. They also noted that overall, depression rates varied widely.

“These differences in rates may be due to many factors: differences in defining depression, type of arthritis, tools used to detect depression, use of different thresholds with the same tools, and country of residence,” the authors wrote.

The CDC noted that in addition to depression symptoms being more than twice as common in adults with arthritis, one of five patients with arthritis had anxiety symptoms compared with one of nine adults without arthritis.

Morbidity and mortality

Those with arthritis alone compared with those with comorbid depression and arthritis were less likely to engage in physical activity, as well as more likely to have joint limitations, work limitations, and social-activity limitations. Taken alone, depressive symptoms can affect the functional ability in those with arthritis.


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