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Anxiety and Depression are Common in Arthritis Patients

The high prevalence of symptoms of anxiety and depression among adults with arthritis warrants awareness, screening, and subsequent treatment of these conditions. Health care providers can refer patients to mental health professionals and self-management education programs, and encourage physical activity to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms and improve quality of life.

The CDC estimates that 54.4 million (22.7%) U.S. adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis, and that approximately one third  of adults with arthritis report having anxiety or depression, with anxiety more common than depression. 

The most recent National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) finds that in adults with arthritis, the prevalence of anxiety and depression is 22.5% and 12.1%, respectively (roughly 2-3 fold higher than those without arthritis - 10.7% and 4.7%). This amounts to an estimated 10.3 million arthritis patients with symptoms of anxiety or depression; 4.9 million with anxiety only, 1.3 million with depression only, and 4.1 million reported symptoms of both.

Moreover, the presence of anxiety and depression are associated with poorer overall health and quality of life.

Anxiety and depression symptoms were more common among younger adults, those with chronic pain or comorbid chronic conditions, those unable to work or who were disabled and increased with the number of co-occurring chronic conditions, increasing psychological distress, and declining self-rated health. Symptom prevalences also were higher among current cigarette smokers than among those who had never smoked.

Anxiety and depression were lower among adults with higher educational and income-to-poverty ratios, and those who reported aerobic physical activity.  

Successful treatment approaches to address anxiety and depression among adults with arthritis are multifaceted and include screenings, referrals to mental health professionals, and evidence-based strategies such as regular physical activity and participation in self-management education to improve mental health.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

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