Could depression be a risk factor for arthritis? Study finds mental woe and achy joint link
The more severe someone’s depression, the more likely they are to have arthritis, a new study reveals.
Both conditions are common among older Americans and are only becoming more prevalent as the population ages.
Arthritis can become debilitating, and that in turn can contribute to depression, a phenomenon that is well documented.
But the new work from researchers at Dartmouth College is among the first studies to look at whether the relationship may work in reverse.
They found that arthritis is more common among depressed patients than those who were not suffering from the mood disorder, suggesting that depression may be a risk factor for arthritis, too.
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US, and both the condition’s pain and disability can be highly depressing. But a new study suggests depression itself may raise arthritis risks
Every year, the US spends $81 billion on healthcare for patients with arthritis, which affects about 12 percent of adult Americans.
In the US, arthritis is the leading cause of disability.
Around the world, neuropsychiatric disorders – with depression being the most common one – are the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Both conditions present massive public health concerns, in the US and globally.
The more we learn about various diseases traditionally thought to ail the body and the mind, respectively, the more scientific study supports the notion that the two categories are not so separate.
‘The biopsychosocial model of chronic pain conceptualizes the physical as well as psychosocial factors (eg, depressive symptoms) of arthritis, which often interact and negatively influence one another to worsen health outcomes,’ the study authors wrote.
‘The consequences of less severe depressive symptoms in older adults with arthritis are similar to those of major depression, including increased pain and functional impairment, which in turn, negatively affect treatment outcomes and heighten mortality risk.
‘As such, it is important to consider the potential health impacts of different levels of depressive symptoms.’
So, rather than compare how common depression was in patients with arthritis of varying degrees of severity, they did the opposite, comparing the prevalence of arthritis in patients with depression of varying levels of severity.
It’s a subtle but important distinction.
Chronic pain is a well known risk factor for depression.
The impact of depression as a risk factor for diseases of chronic pain or inflammation have not gotten the same degree of scientific scrutiny.
The Dartmouth College researchers looked at the prevalence of arthritis in 4,782 patients over 50 without depression and with mild, moderate and severe depression.
As depressive symptoms worsened, arthritis became more likely.
Among those with mild depression, arthritis was 55 percent more common than it was in those without depression. With moderate depression, the risk went up to 62.9 percent, and 67.8 percent of those with severe depression also had arthritis.
‘The consequences of less severe depressive symptoms in older adults with arthritis are similar to those of major depression, including increased pain and functional impairment, which in turn, negatively affect treatment outcomes and heighten mortality risk,’ the study authors wrote.
They urged clinicians to look at depression symptoms as potential risk factors for worse depression and encouraged mental health care professionals to use their information as an opportunity to screen for arthritis in depressed patients over 50