A number of medical conditions are known to be associated with mood disorders—but the condition that potentially affects the greatest number of people in this regard is arthritis. The pain and disability of arthritis can trigger depression and anxiety, which in people with arthritis can have a profound impact on quality of life.

The mood disorders can contribute to declining levels of physical function, affect the ability and willingness to cope with arthritis and interfere with adherence to treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50 million Americans have one of several forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia. And one-third of arthritis patients ages 45 and older suffer from anxiety, depression or both, a new federal study reports.

It came as no surprise to CDC researchers who conducted the study that many arthritis patients suffer from depression, since depression is common among people with chronic pain. But they didn't expect to see such high rates of anxiety.

Anxiety was almost twice as common (31 percent) as depression (18 percent) in arthritis patients. Eighty-four percent of patients with depression also had anxiety—not surprising since anxiety is a risk factor for depression.

Some anxiety may be attributed to the distress caused by physical limitations. Lack of confidence in one's ability to perform certain everyday tasks can contribute to anxiety as well. Consequently, anxiety, as well as depression, can be an obstacle to making lifestyle changes like increasing physical activity, which can ultimately reduce pain.

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 19 Jun 2013

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013