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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2002 Feb;41(2):184-8.

Psychological distress and changes in the activity of systemic lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.



To determine if changes in depressive symptoms or anxiety lead to changes in the activity of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


Twenty-three patients with SLE were examined prospectively every 2 weeks for up to 40 weeks. At each assessment, patients completed the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies--Depression scale (CES-D), the State subscale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and a global assessment of the activity of their SLE by visual analogue scale. SLE activity was also assessed at each visit by physician global assessment, the Systemic Lupus Activity Measure (SLAM), the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) and the European Consensus Lupus Activity Measure (ECLAM).


Changes in depression and anxiety were positively correlated with simultaneous changes in the patient global assessment of SLE activity and in the SLAM, but not with changes in the physician global assessment, SLEDAI or ECLAM. Depression and anxiety scores were also correlated with patient global assessments and SLAM scores 2 weeks later, but lagged scores were not significantly associated with the patient global assessment or SLAM after controlling for current depression and anxiety scores. The associations between depression and anxiety scores and the SLAM were not present when SLAM scores were modified to exclude ratings of depression and fatigue. No measure of SLE activity increased in the 2 weeks immediately after a large increase in CES-D or State Anxiety scores.


Depression and anxiety scores parallel changes in patients' assessments of the activity of their SLE. We found no evidence to support the hypothesis that psychological distress causes increased SLE activity.

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