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Braz J Psychiatry. 2010 Sep;32(3):257-63. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

Depressive symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Medical Psychology and Psychiatry, UNICAMP, Campinas, SP, Brazil.



To determine the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disease) in comparison to a control group with osteoarthritis (a chronic non-inflammatory degenerative disease) and to identify the sociodemographic and clinical variables associated with depressive symptoms in these patients.


Sixty-two rheumatoid arthritis patients and 60 osteoarthritis patients participated in the study. Sociodemographic and clinical data were collected and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Disability Index of the Health Assessment Questionnaire were applied.


The prevalence of depressive symptoms was of 53.2% in rheumatoid arthritis and 28.3% in osteoarthritis (p = 0.005). The prevalence of anxiety symptoms was of 48.4% in rheumatoid arthritis and 50.0% in osteoarthritis (p = 0.859). The mean (and standard deviation) scores in the Disability Index of the Health Assessment Questionnaire were 1.4 (0.8) in rheumatoid arthritis and 1.4 (0.6) in osteoarthritis (p = 0.864). Rheumatoid arthritis patients with depressive symptoms had lower education and higher disease activity and functional disability.


Although these two rheumatic diseases are similar in terms of the pain and functional disability that they cause, a significantly higher prevalence of depressive symptoms was found in rheumatoid arthritis patients. This difference might be explained by the hypothesis of a neuroimmunobiological mechanism related to cytokines in inflammatory diseases, which has been considered as a candidate to the development of depressive symptoms.

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