Anyone who lives with a chronic or serious physical ailment faces a higher risk of mental health issues such as clinical depression, and people with arthritis are no exception. About 30 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), for instance, develop depression within five years from the time of their diagnosis.
Experiencing a difficult life event, such as losing your job — which is more common among people with chronic pain like arthritis — also raises the chances of becoming depressed. Add arthritis and unemployment together and it’s not hard to see why someone’s mental health and mood might be impacted.
While some connection between physical illness, employment challenges, and mental health problems might seem fairly obvious, researchers from the Institute for Work & Health in Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to dig a little deeper. They analyzed four years’ worth of data from the ongoing U.S. National Health Interview Survey and focused on 11,380 adults age 18 to 64 who had some type of arthritis.
According to their findings, which were published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, 13 percent of arthritis patients reported symptoms of depression.
The researchers also found that only 30 percent of those who had depression symptoms were employed, versus 66 percent of people with arthritis who did not report symptoms of depression.
Whether having arthritis and losing a job usually precipitated depression is not clear. It’s also possible that arthritis patients who were depressed had a harder time finding or keeping a job.
“Our findings underscore the substantial negative impact of depression in the workforce engagement of people living with arthritis and highlights the need for additional research to unpack the relationship between mental health, employment participation, and arthritis conditions among working-age people,” the authors wrote.
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Jetha A, et al. Depressive symptoms and the arthritis‐employment interface. A population‐level study. Arthritis Care & Research. July 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/acr.24381.
Laday J. Patients with arthritis, depression more likely to be unemployed. Healio Rheumatology. September 1, 2020. https://www.healio.com/news/rheumatology/20200901/patients-with-arthritis-depression-more-likely-to-be-unemployed.