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Possible link between rheumatoid arthritis and depression

In a recent study, researchers report the association of depressive symptoms in women with rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the most common autoimmune arthritis caused by the improper functioning of the body’s defense system. Research has shown that depression is among the most common mental health disorders associated with RA. However, the prevalence of concurrence ranges between 14% to 48% due to different factors including measurement methods, frequency of depressive symptoms and diagnosis threshold. Recent advances in clinical rheumatology have developed our understanding of RA and depression at a molecular level. However, several other studies need to be conducted to find the proportion and strong association between RA and depression among the population and find therapeutic treatments.

A recent study, published in the British Medical Journal showed that women suffering from RA exhibited depressive symptoms, which was linked to disease activity and dysfunction. A cross-sectional study comprising 319 female RA patients along with 306 healthy controls was conducted in Austria, based on Beck’s depression Inventory-Fast Screen (BDI-FS) –  a self-report to evaluate depression rate in patients suffering from medical disease. Factors including medication, alcohol intake, disease activity, smoking, and occupation were also evaluated in the study.

The results showed that depression was significantly higher in female patients (one-third of patients) suffering from RA as compared to the healthy controls. Furthermore, depressive symptoms were strongly linked with the disease disability and activity despite alcohol intake, age, occupation, and smoking status.

The study provided strong support for the rate of depressive symptoms among RA female patients. It should be noted, however, that pain assessment was not included in the study, and the study group consisted of only females. Further research will be necessary to confirm the findings and extend them further to enable potential treatment strategies.

Written by Sakina Bano Mendha


April Chang-Miller, M. D. (2019, October 18). Is depression a factor in rheumatoid arthritis? Retrieved from

Sautner, J., Puchner, R., Alkin, A., & Pieringer, H. (2020). Depression: a common comorbidity in women with rheumatoid arthritis—results from an Austrian cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 10(1). doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-033958

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay



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