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Arthritis impacts physical, mental health
April 28th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Arthritis impacts physical, mental health

Arthritis can limit mobility and make everyday tasks painful, and it can also take a toll on your mental health and overall quality of life, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from several national health surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  and found that people with arthritis—which includes those with aging-related osteoarthritis and similar conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout—tend to rate lower than their peers on measures of overall health.

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Twenty-seven percent of the survey respondents with some form of arthritis described their health as "fair" or "poor," versus just 12 percent of those without arthritis Those with arthritis also reported having more than twice as many "physically unhealthy days" in the previous month.

Health.com: Household tools for people in pain

The surveys showed a similar pattern for mental health. People with arthritis experienced an average of five "mentally unhealthy days" per month, compared with three per month among those who were arthritis free, according to the study, which appears in Arthritis Care & Research.

"People who have arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis, have significant rates of depression," says Eric L. Matteson, M.D., chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. "And there's no question that when you feel depressed, it influences your general sense of well-being and how arthritis affects you."

Moreover, when arthritis is acting up, metabolic and other changes in the body can increase levels of inflammation, which can worsen depression, Matteson says. "That highlights the importance of not only controlling the disease or managing the disease but also getting depression under control, too."

Health.com: 10 ways to ease rheumatoid arthritis pain

More than one-fifth of the U.S. population has some form of arthritis, according to the CDC. The rate has been rising, partly because of the aging of the Baby Boom generation. But the obesity epidemic is also partly to blame, since excess weight can strain inflamed joints.

Physical activity was linked to a higher quality of life, the researchers found. People who managed to exercise in spite of their arthritis were 53 percent less likely to be in fair or poor health than were inactive arthritis patients, says the lead author of the study, Sylvia Furner, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Physical activity does a lot to strengthen and support the joints, and there's a lot of pain relief that comes along with exercise," says rheumatologist Allyson McDonough, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in Temple. Low-impact exercise—such as walking, swimming, yoga, or tai chi—is "extremely important to improve quality of life," she says.

Health.com: 10 exercises for people in pain

"There's a significant perception that there's nothing that can be done about arthritis," says McDonough, who was not involved in the research. "That's inaccurate. Seeking care and looking for avenues of self-help will help improve quality of life."

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Arthritis • Health.com

soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. florawildes

    People should never forget that real health depends how well you take care of yourself and not what health insurance you carry but I agree health insurance is important for every one. Search "Penny Health Insurance" or online for dollar a day insurance plans.

    April 28, 2011 at 03:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 28, 2011 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. aginghippy

    Really? Being in constant pain is depressing?! Who woulda thunk it?

    April 28, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      Ya, seems pretty obvious doesn't. All one has to do is think about it, but most people who are not in pain just don't get how draining it is physically and emotionally. Hopefully at least this study brings more awareness to the struggles of everyday life. Colleagues, employers, doctors and family just don't understand the impact it really has. Some days are absolute hell.....and I am only 46!

      April 28, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
  4. aubrie

    I have arthritis in my hips, spine, knees and shoulders. typically I'm good during the day when I'm moving around, but I have come to dread going to bed at night. The pain is excrutiating and I wake every 30 to 40 minutes to shift my body around. I sleep very little. I hate going to bed. Needless to say I'm totally exhausted 24/7. I think the depression comes from the exhuastion more than anything..... Can't take NSAIDS for releif due to stomach bleeding. I pray every day they find a cure for this hideous disease. At 51, I can't even fathom suffering another 30 years or so.

    April 28, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • No one anywhere

      Aubrie -

      You need to get yourself a foam mattress if you are not already using one – this is crucial if you want to get any sleep at all. You can get a 6" piece of foam cut at any foam store for about $100. I totally encourage you to go to get one.

      April 28, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse |
    • Jim Mac

      Aubrie...have similar problem with sleeping with the arthritis in my shoulders and now getting it in my spine. I have switched to Aleve GEL caps as they are easier on my stomach. Also taking more melatonin help too.

      April 28, 2011 at 21:27 | Report abuse |
    • Matheus

      The diner is just a set where we film the shows> The food is real andvery good, but it is brguoht on set by a gal that can make tremendousfood! We may be filming in July, not real sure, but if we do you are certainly welcome to come and sit in the diner and partake of some of that great food and watch the show!I think Larry needs to open up a diner, we have so many people wanting to come by and eat there!

      October 11, 2012 at 08:42 | Report abuse |
  5. Lisa

    After hip replacement 2 years ago, seems my arthritis travel here, there, and everywhere really depressed me. Than one day I decided, enough already, no more sit around and hope to get better. I started my walk and swim as I always had before the replacement. Wouldn't you know it, I sleep better and less pain than before. However, I'm wearing back brace when I'm not exercise after all I'm 65 year young. Life is good at 65:)

    April 28, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. lisa2

    I'm a Lisa too, but I'm 30. I had my hip replaced 3 years ago. I have arthritis in my other hip, knees, ankles, wrists, fingers, toes, and spine. I have no health insurance. I'm still paying off the replacement. I can't afford medicaid because it comes out of the much needed child support I get. Disability pay at 30? Impossible. I walk when I can. I swim when I can- weather in the upper midwest makes it difficult ( as well as lack of access to a pool). Depression comes not only from having limited mobility, but from not being able to get proper care. Then one is living with two diseases simultaneously, both making a good day feel like one has won the lottery. No one should have to live life this way. And it sucks a thousand times more that I have many more years of this in front of me.

    I'm a mom. Faith in my child, my family, and God are what get me through. I wish others greater success.

    April 28, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jannynet

    It is frustrating to me that so much information is available on rheumatoid arthritis which I understand causes so much more damage. But, osteoarthritis is just as frustrating because the changes and pain are more subtle and insidious. All of a sudden you can't grip things and spend half you life picking up things you dropped which hurts the back and the knees and on and on and on. Now, the steering wheel hurts my hands but I refuse to be stuck at home. I'm going to be mobile if it kills me.....

    April 28, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cassie

      If you haven't tried a foam cover for your steering wheel, try it. Target sells them so they're probably widely available, and they cost less than $20. The cover makes it so much easier for me to drive. They're a little hard to get on the steering wheel (I have my husband put it on) but once it's on there you leave it on. They last for 2-3 years here in the hot desert sun. They're not too spongy - my hubby can drive my car too and the cover doesn't bother him.

      Stay mobile!!

      April 28, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
  8. mabel floyd

    i swim 1.5 hours per week. i think if i did not swim and watch my weight i would be wheel chair bound. i think that the swimming has helped with both pain control and walking. i am in charge of my life and stay active. i am going to be 80 years old in a few weeks. you are not old until you decide to be. if you have impediments you just adapt and enjoy what you have.

    April 28, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Zach

      Everyone at my house just loves the show. We don't call it Larry's Country Diner though. We call it Nadine . When the music strats for Nadine's entrance we say HERE SHE COMES! We just get the biggest kick out of Nadine. She should have her own show. We do wonder who the man is that plays the part. Keep up the GREAT work.

      October 13, 2012 at 23:21 | Report abuse |
  9. Eliza

    comparing RA to osteoarthritis is a completely invalid comparison. RA is an inflammatory autoimmune disease. The entire body is involved. The victim takes all kinds of immune suppressing drugs that have terrible side effects to try to limit the damage done by this disease. RA and OA are not the same thing at all .This is like comparing the effects of liver cancer with the effects of acne.

    April 28, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I try to do at least one activity a day that I enjoy. It really helps me with both pain and stress management.

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    April 28, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Don

    Aubrie...I feel your pain. Your comments described my condition exactly. My night pain started age age 60 and I am now 65. The suggestion for foam pad bedding does help somewhat. But my best tactic is to just accept nighttime pain,
    not fight it. This may sound strange, but I have also found laughing out loud to ease the pain helps somewhat.
    When the pain gets so bad you feel you want to cry, laugh instead....Good luck.

    April 28, 2011 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.