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Depression and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis


Vallerand IA1,2, Patten SB2,3, Barnabe C2,4. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2019 May;31(3):279-284. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000597.

Author Information

1 Medicine Program.

2 Department of Community Health Sciences.

3 Department of Psychiatry.

4 Department of Medicine, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.



Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with negative changes in mental health. This is generally attributed to symptoms of inflammation and the adverse impact of RA on quality of life and functioning. Until recently, causal pathways in the opposite direction have not been fully appreciated. This review examines the recent literature on the risk of RA associated with depression.


Current literature links depression with an increased risk of RA and with a more detrimental disease course. These effects are likely to be partially mediated by negative effects of depression on coping with RA and on factors such as medication adherence, both of which lead to poorer disease outcomes. Growing evidence also suggests that inflammation is central both to depression and RA and may account for some of the complex interplay between these conditions.


Awareness of a bidirectional relationship between depression and RA through a biopsychosocial framework may assist clinicians in maintaining an appropriate index of suspicion about the co-occurrence of these conditions. This review also suggests an important need for integration of rheumatologic and mental health services and generates hypotheses for future research towards a better understanding of both depression and RA.