This May, learn about the connection between arthritis and mental health

LANSING – According to a recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis and mental health may have more in common than previously thought. In recognition of May being both National Arthritis Awareness Month and Mental Health Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is drawing attention to the connection between the two issues.

ArthritisCampaignInternet_384961_7In Michigan, approximately one third of adults have arthritis, a number that will grow as the population ages. Additionally in Michigan, major depression among adults with arthritis is twice as common as it is among the general population.

The CDC study showed that many adults with arthritis are also suffering from anxiety and depression, which may interfere with their ability to manage their arthritis and lower their quality of life. Although34 percent of the participants had anxiety, depression, or both, anxiety was nearly twice as common as depression. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the participants sought treatment from their doctor or a mental health professional for their anxiety or depression. The study concluded that health care providers can do more to address mental health concerns among adults with arthritis, starting with screening all people with arthritis for anxiety and depression.

“Anxiety, depression, pain, and disability can become a vicious symptom cycle.  Health care providers can help people with arthritis break this cycle by diagnosing and treating anxiety and depression, and recommending regular physical activity and participation in community based programs such as self-management education,” said Louise Murphy, PhD, an arthritis expert with CDC’s Division of Population Health.

Without proper screening and treatment for their mental health needs, arthritis sufferers are at risk for increased pain and other troublesome physical symptoms, and are less likely to engage in behaviors known to help manage their arthritis. To reduce the impact of arthritis, Michigan residents can take five simple steps, including:

  • Engaging in physical activity – the CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise for arthritis sufferers. Regular physical activity is as effective, and sometimes more effective, at relieving mild to moderate depression than anti-depressant medication.
  • Participating in self-management education, which teaches and promotes techniques to manage ongoing health conditions such as goal setting, problem solving, and more.
  • Reducing excess weight – losing just one pound of body weight can reduce the burden on knee joints by as much as four pounds, according to researchers at Wake Forest University.
  • Getting a diagnosis early and working with a health care provider to slow the progression.
  • Treating the condition with medication under the guidance of a health care provider.

The MDCH Arthritis Program supports and promotes self-management workshops and physical activity programs offered by partners across the state. Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) is Michigan’s nationally recognized Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. Among its many benefits, the program has been shown to help arthritis sufferers decrease pain and increase their confidence in managing their condition.

For more information about PATH and physical activity programs such as EnhanceFitness and Walk With Ease which are well-suited to the needs of people with arthritis, or to find physical activity classes in your area, visit

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at

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