Arthritis Prevalent in Older Adults with Depressive Symptoms

The study points to the importance of screening for and treating arthritis-related pain in older adults with varying degrees of depression.

A new study has found that arthritis is commonly reported in older adults with varying degrees of depression, highlighting the importance of screening and treating arthritis-related pain in these patients.

The study, published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, set out to determine arthritis rates among older US adults with depressive symptoms. The researchers used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2011 to 2014 to identify participants aged 50 years and older with depressive symptoms and self-reported physician-diagnosed arthritis.

Physician-diagnosed arthritis, a costly and often disabling chronic condition, occurs in 24.3% of adults older than 45 years to 47.4% in adults aged 65 years and older, according to the study. Arthritis and depression are well established comorbidities, with the prevalence rates of depression in US adults aged 45 years and older with arthritis estimated to be 18%. However, depressive symptoms are often under-treated and poorly understood when it comes to this patient population, the authors noted.

The data included 2483 women and 2309 men. Of the total sample, 43.7% reported physician-diagnosed arthritis. Among the subgroup with minor depression, 55% reported having a diagnosis of arthritis and prevalence rates of depression were similar across the various age subgroups.

Overall, 62.8% and 67.8% of participants with moderate and severe depression, respectively, reported an arthritis diagnosis. Across the age categories, arthritis rates among those with moderate-to-severe depression increased between 50 to 59 and 60 to 69, and stabilized in advancing age groups. Arthritis rates were lowest in participants younger than 50 years with no depression.

The findings confirmed higher rates of arthritis were reported by older adults with various degrees of depression compared with those without sub-clinical and clinical levels of depressive symptoms, which is consistent with other studies on the association between depression and arthritis in older adults.

“Understanding that depressive symptoms and arthritis may be interlinked in older adults is critical when making decisions for health care budget allocation to ensure availability and access to appropriate services,” the authors wrote in the study.

The findings indicate the need to develop integrated biopsychosocial interventions targeting both conditions, as well as screening for and treating arthritis-related pain in patients with depressive symptoms, the authors concluded.


Brooks Jm, Titus AJ, Polenick CA, et al. Prevalence rates of arthritis among US older adults with varying degrees of depression: Findings from the 2011 to 2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018.

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