Activity loss and the onset of depressive symptoms: do some activities matter more than others?

Arthritis Rheum. 2001 May;44(5):1194-202. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(200105)44:5<1194::AID-ANR203>3.0.CO;2-6.


Objective: This study continues an investigation into the role of decline in performance of valued life activities in the development of depressive symptoms among persons with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We examined whether declines in specific types of activities are important in the onset of depressive symptoms or whether the important factor is simply the overall burden of activity decline.

Methods: Data from a longitudinal study of persons with RA, for which individuals are interviewed annually, were used. Two analyses (n = 344 and 310) were conducted because of differences in the way life activities were assessed over time. Each analysis covered 4 interviews (1989-1992 and 1995-1998). Analyses were structured so that the decline in performance of life activities clearly preceded the development of depressive symptoms. The outcome variable was the presence of depressive symptoms at time 4; primary independent variables were activity decline between time 2 and time 3. Individuals with high levels of depressive symptoms prior to time 4 were excluded from the analyses.

Results: In both analyses, total decline in performance of life activities was an important predictor of subsequent high levels of depressive symptoms. However, some activity domains were more closely linked to the onset of new depressive symptoms than others. In particular, declines in the ability to perform recreational activities and engage in social interactions were linked to the onset of new depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: Declines in the ability to engage in recreational activities and social interactions appear to significantly increase the risk of new depressive symptoms. These findings can give direction to both clinical inquiries into patients' functioning and interventions intended to enhance functioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / rehabilitation
  • Cost of Illness
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depression / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity