Research Links Loneliness and Isolation During COVID-19 to Depression and Anxiety in People with Rheumatic Diseases

March 27, 2023 (Vancouver, BC) Mental health issues are a constant struggle for people with rheumatic diseases. A study by Arthritis Research Canada conducted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic has identified connections between social isolation and loneliness, and depression and anxiety.

The main objective of the study was to understand how the pandemic affected disease management, focusing on medications and mental health. Validated measures were used to evaluate loneliness, social isolation, depression and anxiety.

The research took place between April and September 2020 through an anonymous international cross-sectional online survey to 718 individuals of 18 years and older with rheumatic diseases. This was followed up by a second survey from December 2020 to February 2021, this was completed by 344 participants from the baseline survey.

“Our research has identified long-term implications despite the notion that COVID is over,” said Alyssa Howren, Research Trainee at Arthritis Research Canada.

The results showed that 51.1% of participants experienced loneliness, and 30.03% faced social isolation. Meanwhile, 42.8% suffered from depression and 34% experienced symptoms anxiety at baseline. Researchers also observed that when loneliness and isolation were present simultaneously, there was a notable increase on both anxiety and depression. By identifying these connections, this research has far reaching implications beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is critical to consider ongoing impacts of COVID-19 for people living with rheumatic disease who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, and continue to experience the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation,” said Mary de Vera, Research Scientist at Arthritis Research Canada.

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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose life-changing research is creating a future where people living with arthritis have the knowledge and tools to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is now conducting arthritis research from coast to coast with centres in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia and scientists affiliated with six major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, McGill University, and Dalhousie University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at preventing arthritis, facilitating early diagnosis, finding new and better treatments, and improving quality of life.

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

Victoria Rubio
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Arthritis Research Canada
604-207-4010 or vrubio@arthritisresearch.ca

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