How common are mental health problems in arthritis patients?

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 61, No. 9, November 2019, Pages 354-355 News

A recent Arthritis Research Canada study revealed that while administrative health databases are increasingly being used to study mental health in rheumatic diseases, researchers have used different ways to identify patients who have depression and anxiety, making it challenging to draw conclusions and comparisons across publications.

Administrative health databases refer to secondary data collected for billing purposes, which may comprise several unique administrative data sources, such as those capturing inpatient visits, outpatient visits, and prescription claims. These databases are increasingly used to study depression and anxiety in rheumatic diseases, but they only record details of those who seek and receive treatment. And mental health problems are notoriously underreported.

While there are many physical complications associated with rheumatic diseases, there is also an increased risk of depression and anxiety. A recent Canadian population-based study reported that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis have a 1.5-fold increased risk for incident depression and a 1.2-fold increased risk for incident anxiety.

While administrative health data are very accessible and reduce common biases associated with hospital- and clinic-based studies, there are many challenges associated with relying on the data to identify depression and anxiety. This research is a first step for researchers at Arthritis Research Canada toward understanding mental health issues in individuals living with arthritis using administrative health data.

To read the abstract of this paper in Arthritis Care & Research, visit To access a full copy of the paper, contact Mary De Vera, research scientist of pharmacoepidemiology, MSc, PhD, at

. How common are mental health problems in arthritis patients?. BCMJ, Vol. 61, No. 9, November, 2019, Page(s) 354-355 - News.

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