Background: This study aimed to investigate the course of depression for patients with recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to investigate predictors of depression.
Methods: Twenty-two patients with a history of recently diagnosed RA of less than 2 years were assessed on a variety of clinical outcome and process measures on six assessment occasions over a 21-month period. These 22 patients constituted the control group of a controlled trial and received standard outpatient clinic treatment during follow-up.
Results: Patients became significantly more depressed over time. A set of five factors were found to consistently predict depression at the following assessment. These were initial level of depression, disability, pain, beliefs about the consequences of arthritis and coping strategies.
Conclusions: The results confirm the importance of psychological factors in early RA and their relative independence from physical findings. This is the first study to document the importance of illness perceptions in recent onset RA.