Stressful life events' effects on rheumatoid arthritis disease activity

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1997 Apr;65(2):319-23. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.65.2.319.


A 53-year-old female rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient endured 2 unexpected family deaths during a 12-week study investigating the prospective relationships between stressful small life events, negative affect, and disease activity. Her disease went into temporary remission the same week as the deaths. She was identified as a case study participant, and weekly data collection was extended to 1 year. Clinical exams verified a large decrease in disease status immediately after the major losses. In addition to major events, negative affect and small events were found to serve as independent arthritis symptom predictors within this patient. Major events were associated with decreased symptoms. Negative affect and small events related to symptom increases. Subsequent between-subjects analyses conducted on 25 participants from the parent project probed for generalizability. The substantive findings from the case study were supported: Major life events and small life events functioned as opposing predictors of RA disease states.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Bereavement*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Regression Analysis
  • Remission, Spontaneous
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*