Research about Depression & Anxiety in People with Arthritis

In an CDC study, researchers surveyed 1,793 adults ages 45 and older with arthritis about their emotional well being and physical function (the ability to walk several hundred feet; wash or bathe; bend, kneel or stoop; and run errands and shop). Among the findings published online in Arthritis Care and Research in 2012:

  • Increasing levels of depression and anxiety led to decreasing levels of physical function and independence.
  • People who were depressed had little confidence in their ability to manage their arthritis or joint symptoms.

The study authors say that the appropriate treatment for a mood disorder can help reduce joint pain and improve physical function. But only about half of the arthritis patients with anxiety and/or depression had sought help for their mental health condition in the past year.

What We Know about Depression & Anxiety in People with Arthritis

Anxiety and depression are far more common in people with arthritis than in people in the general population. Moreover, past evidence has already shown that:

  • People with rheumatoid arthritis who are depressed are more likely than patients who aren't depressed to experience a higher level of pain, a greater number of painful joints, more frequent visits to their doctor, more days spent in bed and an increased risk of death.
  • Osteoarthritis patients who are depressed report higher pain intensity than patients who aren't depressed.
  • Arthritis patients who believe they can manage or influence their symptoms are more likely to have better outcomes than patients who don't believe they can control their symptoms.

Depression and anxiety can have overlapping symptoms, such as trouble sleeping or concentrating, nervousness and irritability—and many people who have had an anxiety disorder in the past develop depression later. (Anxiety isn't a single condition; it consists of several disorders.

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

Published: 19 Jun 2013

Last Modified: 19 Jun 2013