Healthy Living

More Than Bones: Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Mental Health

More Than Bones: Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Mental Health

Most people would not think to associate painful rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with mental health issues, but a recent study has found that those living with RA are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and even panic attacks.

People with RA are more likely to experience mental illness than the general population

The research study, performed by the Medibank Better Health Index, involved an annual Australian survey of over 50,000 individuals and found that depression impacts 22.3% of individuals with RA, as opposed to 16.3% of the general population. Yet, depression was not the only factor that showed to impact individuals with RA. Anxiety affects 21.7% of individuals with RA, as opposed to 19.2% of the general population, and panic attacks affect 7.3% of individuals with RA, as opposed to 5.8% of the general population.

“While arthritis is a physical health condition, we know it can also take a major toll on the mental wellbeing of those affected – with chronic pain, mobility loss and a reduced ability to take part in physical and social activities all playing potential roles,” said Dr. Linda Swan, Chief Medical Officer at Medibank.

This is connected to sleeping disorders, too

The research study also found that those with RA are 2x as likely to experience sleeping problems. In fact, 10.1% live with sleep disorders, as opposed to 5.7% of individuals among the general population. “These findings confirm how essential it is that people with arthritis take measures to not only manage the physical symptoms of the condition, but also their mental health as well, and seek support from their arthritis specialist, GP or other health professional if required,” said Dr. Swan.

According to the doctor, there are measures that individuals can take if they start to experience a decline in mental health. “If you’re at risk or currently living with the condition, consider tailoring your lifestyle to reduce certain modifiable risk factors – such as maintaining a healthy weight, and participating in regular physical activity,” she said. Many who practice mindfulness find that the technique helps to ease their stress and anxiety, while others have stated that it helps in managing their pain.

In addition, remaining moderately active and exercising gently on a regular basis can help to manage pain, while eating a healthy diet and losing weight can help to take pressure off the muscles and joints. In any case, it is always recommended to talk to a GP or a doctor about symptoms, as some lifestyle changes that work for some individuals may not necessary work well for others.

Read on to learn more about the association between rheumatoid arthritis and mental health conditions, and what you can do to prevent further complications.