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Arthritis linked to anxiety and depression

8th May 2012

Around a third of Americans with arthritis aged 45 or older also suffer from anxiety or depression, according to a recent study.

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The study, carried out by arthritis researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that patients with anxiety were twice as common in this group.

However, doctors tended to focus on arthritis patients with depression, CDC said.

The study looked at nearly 1,800 people with arthritis or other rheumatic conditions who had enrolled in CDC's Arthritis Conditions and Health Effects Survey.

It found that 31% of them reported symptoms of anxiety, while of he 18% who reported depression, 84% also suffered from anxiety.

The study, which was published in journal Arthritis Care & Research, found that only half of the people who reported such mental health problems had actually sought treatment.

Researchers identified 1,793 participants with doctor-diagnosed arthritis or other rheumatic conditions. Anxiety and depression were assessed using the emotional well-being questions from the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales.

Study lead author Louise Murphy of CDC's arthritis programme, said anyone with arthritis should be screened for anxiety and depression, given the high prevalence of the problem and the effective treatments that were available.

With so many arthritis patients not seeking mental health treatment, health care providers were missing an intervention opportunity that could improve the quality of life for those with arthritis, Murphy said in a news release issued alongside the article.

Figures from the American College of Rheumatology show that 27 million Americans age 25 and older have osteoarthritis, while 1.3 million adults have rheumatoid arthritis.

The CDC estimates that all forms of arthritis is the leading cause of disability nationwide, with 50 million Americans affected by all forms of the illness.

Depression has previously been linked to chronic illnesses like arthritis, but anxiety has been under-recognised as a mental health issue until now, the report said.

Anxiety has also been overlooked as a potential risk factor for depression.

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