Objective: As with other chronic physical illness, rates of depressive disorder are high in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of the current study was to identify distinct trajectories of psychological distress over 10 years in a cohort of RA patients recruited very early in the course of the disease.
Methods: Psychological distress as measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale total score was assessed annually in a subgroup of 784 patients enrolled in a multi-centre RA inception cohort (Early RA Study). A latent growth mixture modelling (GMM) approach was used to identify distinct psychological distress patterns.
Results: Four distinct psychological distress trajectories were observed: low-stable (68%), high-stable (12%), high-decreasing (9%) and low-increasing (11%). Symptoms of pain, stiffness and functional impairment were significantly associated with levels of psychological distress at the time of diagnosis and after 3 years; serological markers of disease activity (ESR and CRP) were not.
Conclusions: Although the majority of individuals developing RA experience little or no impact of the effects of the disease on their psychological well-being, a significant proportion experience high levels of distress at some point which may be related to their subjective appraisal of their condition. Assessment and treatment of psychological distress should occur synchronously with somatic symptoms.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Psychological distress