Mental Health Issues Common in Arthritis

Experts have long known that living with a chronic physical condition such as arthritis often impacts mental health. Now a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further confirms this link and finds that arthritis patients may be even more likely to experience mental distress  if they live in certain parts of the U.S.

The report, which was published earlier this month (January 2020), is an analysis of data taken from a 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System phone survey. The analysis focuses at 147,288 adults who said they had been diagnosed with arthritis and asked questions about their mental health.

Overall, 19 percent of arthritis patients surveyed had “frequent mental distress” and 32 percent had a history of depression. Participants were considered to have frequent mental distress if they said they were stressed, depressed, or had problems with their emotions in the two weeks prior to the survey poorly. They were deemed to have a history of depression if they said they were ever diagnosed with depression, major depression, dysthymia (persistent mild depression), or minor depression.

However, the rates of mental health problems varied substantially depending on where the respondents resided. In Hawaii, 13 percent of arthritis patients reported frequent mental distress, yet in Kentucky that number was higher than 22 percent. “States with high prevalences of frequent mental distress clustered in the Appalachian and southern states, whereas a similar geographic clustering was not observed for prevalence of a history of depression,” the authors wrote.

Women were more likely than men to report frequent mental distress or a history of depression, as were people who identified as lesbian/gay/bisexual (compared to those who identified as heterosexual).

“Persons with arthritis have unique challenges because the interplay between anxiety, depression, and chronic pain is cyclical, with each having the potential to exacerbate the others,” they noted. “All adults with arthritis might benefit from systematic mental health screening by their health care team” and directed to appropriate treatment if necessary.

Found This Study Interesting? Here’s How You Can Be Part of Arthritis Research

If you are diagnosed with arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first-ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. Learn more and sign up here.

Keep Reading

Price JD, et al. State-Specific Prevalence and Characteristics of Frequent Mental Distress and History of Depression Diagnosis Among Adults with Arthritis — United States, 2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). January 3, 2020. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm685152a1.