Approximately one third of adults with arthritis in the USA aged 45+ years suffer from anxiety or depression, researchers from the CDC reported in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. The authors added that the prevalence of anxiety in adults with arthritis is almost twice as high as depression, in spite of more studies focusing on the arthritis-depression link.

27 million patients aged 25+ years have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, and another 1.3 million with rheumatoid arthritis, according to data US health authorities. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that approximately 50 million people are affected by arthritis in the USA. The illness is the leading cause of disability in the country.

According to prior research, depression is common among patients with arthritis and other chronic illnesses and conditions. However, researchers and health care professionals have long been saying that anxiety among people with arthritis is common, under-treated and under-recognized. Until recently, anxiety was not taken into consideration as a depression risk-factor.

Team leader, Dr. Louise Murphy, who works at the Arthritis Program at the CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues gathered data on participants of the CDC’s Arthritis Conditions and Health Effects Survey. The researchers say the sample is representative of people around the USA with arthritis symptoms who are aged at least 45 years. They identified 1,793 patients who had been diagnosed with arthritis or some other rheumatic condition.

They used the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales to assess anxiety and depression in the participants.

They found that:

  • 31% of arthritis patients suffered from anxiety
  • 18% of arthritis patients suffered from depression
  • One third of the participants suffered from at least one of the two conditions – anxiety and/or depression
  • 84% of arthritis patients who had depression said they also had anxiety

Only half of those with depression or anxiety got medical help for their anxiety or depression during the previous twelve months.

Dr. Murphy said:

“Given their high prevalence and the effective treatment options that are available, we suggest that all people with arthritis be screened for anxiety and depression. With so many arthritis patients not seeking mental health treatment, health care providers are missing an intervention opportunity that could improve the quality of life for those with arthritis.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist