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Poorer Arthritis Patients More Likely to Be Depressed

Physical disability in arthritis strongly linked to increased severity of depression

MONDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who are of lower socioeconomic status may be at greater risk of depression, according to a study published in the February issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

Mary Margaretten, M.D., of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues investigated the extent to which socioeconomic status influences the relationship between disability and depression in patients with RA. Patients from two rheumatology clinics -- an urban, county, public hospital and a university, tertiary-care medical center -- were evaluated for depressive symptoms. Patient characteristics were assessed, and the clinic sites were used as proxies for socioeconomic status.

The researchers found that increased functional disability and care at the public clinic site were significantly associated with increased depression. As disability increased, average depression scores rose more sharply among patients from the public hospital site. There were significant differences between depressed and nondepressed patients in terms of race/ethnicity, public versus tertiary-care medical center, disability, and medications.

"Recognizing the variability in psychological effects in patients with RA, such that a vulnerable population is at higher risk for depression, can help guide treatment to include prevention of functional limitations and subsequent depression in these susceptible patients," the authors write. "A treatment program, which includes psychological support targeted toward patients with low socioeconomic status, may ameliorate health inequalities in this vulnerable population."

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