How Common are Mental Health Problems in Arthritis Patients?

Research Reveals Flaw in Determining Extent of Problem


A recent Arthritis Research Canada study has revealed that while administrative health databases are increasingly being used to study mental health in rheumatic diseases, researchers have used different ways to identify patients who have depression and anxiety, making it challenging to draw conclusions and comparisons across publications.


Administrative health databases refer to secondary data collected for billing purposes, which may be comprised of several unique administrative data sources – such as those capturing inpatient visits, outpatient visits, and prescription claims. These databases are increasingly used to study depression and anxiety in rheumatic diseases, but they only record details of those who seek and receive treatment. And mental health problems are notoriously under-reported.


“We identified the differing methods used to evaluate depression and anxiety in 36 studies using administrative health data and recommend examining multiple administrative data sources to understand the extent of mental health problems in populations living with arthritis,” said Alyssa Howren, an Arthritis Research Canada trainee and the study’s lead researcher. 


While there are many physical complications associated with rheumatic diseases, there is also an increased risk of depression and anxiety. A recent Canadian population-based study reported that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis have a 1.5-fold increased risk for incident depression and a 1.2-fold increased risk for incident anxiety.


“Mental illnesses can lead to increased disease activity, suboptimal treatment adherence, reduced treatment response and an overall decreased quality of life” Howren said.


While administrative health data are very accessible and reduce common biases associated with hospital- and clinic-based studies, there are many challenges associated with relying on it to identify depression and anxiety. This research is important because it is a first step for researchers at Arthritis Research Canada towards understanding mental health issues in individuals living with arthritis using administrative health data.


To read the abstract of this paper in Arthritis Care & Research, please click here.


To access a full copy of the paper, please contact:

Mary De Vera
Research Scientist of Pharmacoepidemiology, MSc, PhD

Alyssa Howren
Arthritis Research Canada Trainee, BSc, MSc, PhD Student



Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research centre in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Led by world-renowned rheumatologist, Dr. John Esdaile, Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific team of over 100 are creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Within British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life issues.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:  

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Arthritis Research Canada
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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