In any case, they say if you or a loved one shows signs of depression, mention it to your health care provider – because your provider may or may not be looking for signs of depression, which should be treated. Depression can lead to poor medication adherence and increased health risks.

“We get so busy in the clinic with looking at medication lists and X-rays and checking blood and looking at swelling, that mental health isn’t always well addressed,” Dr. Margaretten says.

Leigh Callahan, PhD, is an associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center in Chapel Hill. She says it would have been nice if the study identified socioeconomic status by individual factors like education level or income rather than the hospital site visited, but she says it’s still significant research.

“It’s another study that reinforces the importance of recognizing the impact socioeconomic status has on both health outcomes and depression,” Callahan says.

She says, for example, patients with poor functional status who work in a manual labor job may be less able to keep working if their RA worsens terribly and their job doesn’t allow them to control the pace of work in the same way a white-collar job might allow. This could cause someone to grow increasingly depressed.

“For the doctors it highlights, if they see someone with low levels of socioeconomic status, they need to be thinking about the range of things that go on,” Callahan says. “It’s a matter of clueing in that there may be an even greater need for individuals with lower socioeconomic status to have supportive interventions.”