Those with minor to severe depression may be more likely to develop arthritis later in life, new data suggests. According to a new study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, adults over the age of 50 with various degrees of depression have been found to often share something in common — arthritis.
Researchers in the study observed the data of 2,438 women and 2,309 men over the age of 50 between the years 2011 and 2014. The data was collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The participants were screened for depressive symptoms. They were also surveyed for doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
An analysis of the data showed that 55% of those experiencing minor depression also suffered from arthritis. Up to 62.9% of those with moderate depression had been diagnosed with arthritis and 67.8% of those with severe depression had been diagnosed with arthritis.
Compared to those with subclinical and clinical levels of depression, higher rates of arthritis were reported in older women and men with varying degrees of depression.
The significant connections between minor and moderate depression and arthritis were still present when researchers adjusted results for variables such as hypertension, heart disease, smoking status, and more.
More than 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis, which can lead to chronic pain and a disruption of everyday activities.
Although treatments have been in development to help those with chronic pain, prescription painkillers are still one of the most common treatments. This is problematic because four out of five people suffering from heroin addiction first became addicted to their pain medication. Seniors, in particular, are susceptible to opioid addiction.
It was in the study’s older participants that the rates of arthritis were higher. Up to 53.1% of adults between the ages of 50 and 59 with moderate depression had arthritis compared to the 69.2% of adults between the ages of 60 and 69 with moderate depression.
Arthritis rates rose more moderately in those with severe depression. Compared to the 59.6% arthritis rate in those between the ages of 50 and 59, those between the ages of 60 and 69 had an arthritis rate of 73.7%.
According to Dr. Vinicius Domingues, a rheumatologist who wasn’t involved in the study, the research in the study is helpful but hasn’t been able to crack the code of whether arthritis causes depression or depression causes arthritis.
“[You] can’t imply any causation, to either arthritis causing depression or the other way around,” Domingues said. “Clinicians should be aware of subtle arthritis-related symptoms in patients with depressive behavior and refer them to a rheumatologist so patients can receive proper treatment.”