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Depression Linked To Higher Risk Of Death In Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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Symptoms of depression are associated with elevated mortality risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), especially male patients, according to research.

The mortality risk was significantly higher for male RA patients, who were found to be five times more likely to die within the next year than female RA patients without depressive symptoms.

The findings highlight the need for male RA patients feeling anxiety, hopelessness and disengagement from activities they had once enjoyed to more proactively seek help and more openly discuss those feelings with their physicians, study co-author Patricia Katz from the University of California said.

Katz and her team monitored 530 patients with RA from clinics in Northern California. The patients, with a mean age of 60, were followed from 2002 or 2003 until 2009 or death. Most of the patients (84%) were women. All patients took part in annual telephone interviews answering 15 questions from the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Those giving positive answers to at least five of the questions were considered to have high levels of depressive symptoms, though they were not formally diagnosed with depression, Katz explains.

Patients with a score of five or higher on the GDS scale were 3.5 times more likely to die in the next year than those with scores below five. Moreover, patients with a GDS score that increased by two or more points in the course of one year were at least two times more exposed to mortality risk within the following year than those whose GDS score did not worsen as much.