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Anxiety impacts rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and health-related quality of life even at low levels

1, 2, 3, 4


  1. The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
  2. The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; and Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
  3. The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
  4. The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, and McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.

2020 Vol.38, N°6
PI 1176, PF 1181
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PMID: 32141436 [PubMed]

Received: 20/11/2019
Accepted : 20/01/2020
In Press: 05/03/2020
Published: 03/12/2020


We explored the burden of symptoms of anxiety and depression on health-related quality of life (HRQL) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Adults with RA participating in an observational cohort completed PROMIS tests of depression, anxiety, fatigue, physical function (PF), pain interference (PI), sleep disturbance, and participation in social roles and activities at the baseline visit. Clinical measures of disease status were also obtained. We used ANOVA and partial correlation adjusting for the swollen joint count (SJC) to examine associations of anxiety and depression with other aspects of HRQL. Mild and moderate-severe anxiety were defined as T-scores ≥55.4 and ≥ 62.3 and mild and moderate-severe depression was defined as ≥52.5 and ≥58.6 based on previous validated clinical thresholds. Multivariable linear regression (MVR) was used to identify predictors of emotional distress with a subset analysis of those in remission/low disease activity.
Of 196 RA participants, 18% had mild anxiety, 9% had moderate-severe anxiety, 18% had mild depression, and 14% had moderate-severe depression symptoms. Anxiety and depression scores were associated with significantly worse mean scores across HRQL domains (p <0.05). In MVR, depression (β=0.75, p<0.001), PF (β=0.14, p=0.024) and fatigue (β=0.15, p=0.015) predicted higher anxiety levels, whereas only anxiety predicted higher depression levels (β=0.70, p=<0.001). In subset analysis, PF no longer predicted higher anxiety levels.
Emotional distress is common in RA, even when disease is well controlled, with considerable impacts on other aspects of HRQL even at mild levels.

Rheumatology Article