Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Clinical and Population Health Research



First Thesis Advisor

George W. Reed, PhD


Antirheumatic Agents, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Comorbidity, Depression, Depressive Disorder, Rheumatology


Dissertations, UMMS; Antirheumatic Agents; Arthritis, Rheumatoid; Comorbidity; Depression; Depressive Disorder; Rheumatology


Depression is a common comorbidity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), yet it may not be adequately recognized during routine clinical care. RA symptoms may confer a risk for depression, and vice versa; depression may affect RA disease activity and response to treatment. The study aims were to compare patient- and physician-reported depression measures, evaluate the temporal bi-directional association between RA disease activity and depressive symptomology, and assess depression as a moderator of RA treatment.

Patients were identified using a national RA registry sample (Consortium of Rheumatology Researchers of North America; CORRONA). Depression prevalence and incidence rates were estimated, and concordance and disagreement using measures reported separately by patients and physicians, as well as baseline cross-sectional associations between RA disease and a history of depression. A survival analysis was conducted to temporally predict the incident onset of self-reported depressive symptoms using the different metrics of RA disease activity. Also, mixed effects models were used to assess prospective changes in RA disease activity by prevalent and incident depressive symptom status. Lastly, logistic regression models compared the likelihood of clinical response to RA treatment during follow-up in those with and without depression when starting biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) therapy.

Patient-reported depression rates were much higher and significantly different from physician based comorbidity estimates. Patient and physician RA disease activity measures were associated with an increased risk for depression onset, but not laboratory-reported serum biomarkers. Similarly, depression was temporally associated with significantly slower rates of decline regarding every patient-reported disease activity measure, some physician-reported metrics, but not acute phase reactants. Moreover, there was a significantly lower probability of achieving clinical remission among those with depression on a biologic DMARD after 6 months and an analogous effect at 12-months that was slightly lower in magnitude, which did not reach statistical significance.

Rheumatologists under-reported the occurrence of prevalent and incident depressive symptoms, and thus are likely unaware of its presence in their RA patients. Further, the results suggest the bi-directional effects between these conditions are related to the cognitive and behavioral aspects of depression and their interactions with disease activity, rather than shared immunological mechanisms in the context of cell-mediated immunity. When also considering the impact on clinical response to biologic DMARDS, the findings collectively imply that rheumatologists must address any challenges due to depression to provide the best care to their patients.



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