Arthritis taking its toll on mental health

Sarah Wiedersehn

People with arthritis are significantly more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and have panic attacks, according to new research.

The latest analysis of the Medibank Better Health Index1 - an annual survey of more than 50,000 Australians - shows 22.3 per cent of people with arthritis had diagnosed depression, compared with 16.3 per cent of the general population.

The prevalence of diagnosed anxiety was also higher among those with arthritis, at 21.7 per cent, compared with 19.2 per cent.

People with rheumatoid arthritis were the most likely to have depression, and those with osteoarthritis were most likely to experience anxiety.

Panic attacks affected 7.3 per cent of of people with arthritis compared with 5.8 per cent of the general population, while sufferers were twice as likely to struggle with sleeping issues.

Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan says, arthritis is a physical disease, but greater awareness about the impact it has on a person's mental health is needed.

"These findings confirm how essential it is that people with arthritis take measures to not only manage the physical symptoms of the condition, but also their mental health as well, and seek support from their arthritis specialist, GP or other health professional if required," Dr Swan said.

Many people with arthritis live with chronic pain and a loss of mobility, while it also impacts their social lives, she said.