Could a better understanding of mental health improve care for arthritis?

A older man leans on a walking stick with his head down

Data access has been approved for a project to address the understudied issue of mental health in people living with arthritis. The study, funded by The Arthritis Society, is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.

Inflammatory arthritis (IA) is a very painful condition affecting over one million Canadians. IA includes spondylitis, gout, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases, such as lupus. These conditions are characterized by pain, disability and physical complications, including cardiovascular disease. Beyond physical impacts, there is evidence that a complex underlying relationship exists between IA and psychiatric complications that is largely driven by inflammation. Yet understanding of psychiatric complications, namely anxiety and depression, among IA patients is limited.

The ultimate aim of the study is to better understand mental health complications and ultimately improve care for arthritis patients.

“The project will evaluate whether the number of people newly diagnosed with arthritis, who also have depression and/or anxiety, has increased over time,” says Mary De Vera, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia and Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada, who leads a multidisciplinary team with expertise in health services research, rheumatology, and mental health.

The team will also evaluate the onset of depression and anxiety after diagnosis of arthritis, including when it occurs and associated factors, and study how depression and anxiety are treated among people with arthritis and whether some medications used to treat arthritis may reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.