According to new research depression is higher in men and women with rheumatoid arthritis, and may increase mortality in this population. The findings were presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Researchers used data collected from annual telephone surveys of 530 participants with RA who live in northern California to assess symptoms of depression and the potential impact of depression in this population. To qualify as depressed, participants must score greater than five on the Geriatric Depression Scale, a standardized measurement tool.
"People with rheumatoid arthritis who were depressed were more likely to die than those with RA who were not depressed. We found that seemed to be particularly true for the men. The risk of death for depressed men was twice that for depressed women," says Dr. Katz.
Overall, men in this study had a higher mortality risk than women, after controlling for other variables. This was true for both depressed and non-depressed individuals; a baseline history of depression by the Geriatric Depression Scale resulted in approximately twice the mortality for both genders. When the increased risk associated with gender was combined with the risk associated with depression, men in the study whose scores indicated depression were five times as likely to die as women with RA whose scores indicated they were not depressed.
Men and women with increases in depressive symptoms, who may not have scored high enough on the Geriatric Depression Scale to be considered depressed, still had a higher mortality risk, says Dr. Katz. "An increase in the depressive symptom score, even if they didn''t cross over that critical line to overt depression, was still associated with a higher level of mortality."
The study''s findings suggest that depression and depressive symptoms are a significant risk factor for mortality in RA, although it is not necessarily a part of the disease process, says Dr. Katz.
"Patients need to be made aware that depression is something to pay attention to in RA, and they need to tell their physician about it. Rheumatologists and other health care providers need to be aware of the problem of depression in the clinical setting," Dr. Katz says.
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute for Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.