Depression and anxiety in rheumatoid arthritis: the role of perceived social support

Ir J Med Sci. Apr-Jun 2006;175(2):32-6. doi: 10.1007/BF03167946.


Background: Rheumatoid arthritis is a common, disabling, autoimmune disease with significant psychiatric sequelae.

Aims: We aimed to identify the prevalence of depression and anxiety in patients with rheumatoid arthritis attending hospitals, and to elucidate the role played by illness variables, disability variables and psychosocial variables in predicting levels of depression and anxiety.

Methods: We assessed depression, anxiety, arthritis-related pain, arthritis-related disability and perceived social support in 68 adults with rheumatoid arthritis.

Results: Sixty-five per cent of patients had evidence of depression (37.5% moderate or severe) and 44.4% had evidence of anxiety (17.8% moderate or severe). Both depression and anxiety were highly correlated with several measures of arthritis-related pain and functional impairment. After controlling for age, gender, marital status and duration of arthritis, perceived social support was a highly significant independent predictor of both depression and anxiety.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that increasing social support may be particularly important in the management of depression and anxiety in rheumatoid arthritis.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sick Role
  • Social Perception*
  • Social Support*