People who have arthritis may have fewer days of feeling mentally and physically well and are more likely to feel generally unwell, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research.

In this large study, researchers reviewed data collected from more than a million adults, and found that measures of physical and mental health were consistently two to three times worse in people with arthritis than in those without arthritis.

"People with arthritis have poor health-related quality of life," says study co-author Sylvia Furner, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Study participants did not specify what type of arthritis they had; they were asked whether a doctor or other health professional had ever told them they had some form of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, gout and lupus.

To investigate how a person's quality of life is impacted by a diagnosis of arthritis, Furner and her team reviewed data collected from American adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2003 and 2007. The data stem from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing nationwide telephone health survey established in 1984 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers compared survey answers from people with arthritis to those without arthritis. Among the findings:

  • One in four adults with arthritis rated their health as "fair" or "poor," versus one in eight adults who didn’t have arthritis.
  • People with arthritis reported feeling physically unwell for an average of seven out of the previous 30 days versus an average of two or three days for those without arthritis.
  • People with arthritis reported feeling mentally unwell – from stress, depression or emotional problems – an average of five of the past 30 days, versus an average of three days for people without arthritis.
  • More people with arthritis said they experienced days when their health prevented them from doing day-to-day activities, such as going to work.