People with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely to experience depression but are unlikely to talk to a doctor about it, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the study, published in Arthritis Care & Research, researchers found that almost 11 percent of RA patients had moderately severe to severe symptoms of depression, demonstrating a worrisome link between rheumatoid arthritis and depression. 

The study also found that only one in five of the patients with arthritis and depression discussed it with their rheumatologists. Those who did were always the ones to bring up the topic – not the physician. When it was brought up, it was often not discussed at any length.

Why not? Because when patients visit their specialists, their arthritis is understandably the main focus, says Betsy Sleath, PhD, the study’s lead author. But in discussing a patient’s arthritis, depression is a topic rheumatologists should consider broaching.

"Chronic diseases can greatly affect a patient's psychosocial well-being, and depression can also affect a patient's adherence to treatment regimens," Sleath says. "Since many arthritis patients see their rheumatologist more often then their primary-care physician, we recommend that rheumatologists take steps to screen patients for signs of depression."