New insights into the prevalence of depressive symptoms and depression in rheumatoid arthritis - Implications from the prospective multicenter VADERA II study

PLoS One. 2019 May 28;14(5):e0217412. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217412. eCollection 2019.


Objectives: To investigate the prevalence of depressive symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients using two previously validated questionnaires in a large patient sample, and to evaluate depressive symptoms in the context of clinical characteristics (e.g. remission of disease) and patient-reported impact of disease.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, the previously validated Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and Beck-Depression Inventory II (BDI-II) were used to assess the extent of depressive symptoms in RA patients. Demographic background, RA disease activity score (DAS28), RA impact of disease (RAID) score, comorbidities, anti-rheumatic therapy and antidepressive treatment, were recorded. Cut-off values for depressive symptomatology were PHQ-9 ≥5 or BDI-II ≥14 for mild depressive symptoms or worse and PHQ-9 ≥ 10 or BDI-II ≥ 20 for moderate depressive symptoms or worse. Prevalence of depressive symptomatology was derived by frequency analysis while factors independently associated with depressive symptomatology were investigated by using multiple logistic regression analyses. Ethics committee approval was obtained, and all patients provided written informed consent before participation.

Results: In 1004 RA-patients (75.1% female, mean±SD age: 61.0±12.9 years, mean disease duration: 12.2±9.9 years, DAS28 (ESR): 2.5±1.2), the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 55.4% (mild or worse) and 22.8% (moderate or worse). Characteristics independently associated with depressive symptomatology were: age <60 years (OR = 1.78), RAID score >2 (OR = 10.54) and presence of chronic pain (OR = 3.25). Of patients classified as having depressive symptoms, only 11.7% were receiving anti-depressive therapy.

Conclusions: Mild and moderate depressive symptoms were common in RA patients according to validated tools. In routine clinical practice, screening for depression with corresponding follow-up procedures is as relevant as incorporating these results with patient-reported outcomes (e.g. symptom state), because the mere assessment of clinical disease activity does not sufficiently reflect the prevalence of depressive symptoms.

Clinical trial registration number: This study is registered in the Deutsches Register Klinischer Studien (DRKS00003231) and (NCT02485483).

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Associated data

  • DRKS/DRKS00003231

Grant support

This work was supported by Roche Pharma AG and Chugai Pharma Europe Ltd. Drs. Englbrecht, Alten, Aringer, Baerwald, Burkhardt, Fliedner, Kleinert, Kneitz, Krueger, Schett, Schmalzing, Tausche, Tony, and Wendler received funding. Data analysis was done by AMS – Advanced Medical Services GmbH (Mannheim, Germany) and was funded by Roche Pharma AG and Chugai Pharma Europe Ltd.