UW News

November 20, 2003

Treating depression helps arthritis patients

Treating arthritis sufferers for depression can help with other problems related to their condition, according to a study by researchers with Group Health Cooperative and the UW.

The results, published in the Nov. 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, were obtained as part of a larger study known as IMPACT, or Improving Mood: Promoting Access to Collaborative Treatment. That study, led by Dr. Jurgen Unutzer, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, assessed the effects of improving depression treatment for 1,801 adults over age 60.

The sub-study on older adults dealing with arthritis was led by Dr. Elizabeth Lin, a physician and researcher with Group Health. Lin’s group found that providing depression care for arthritis sufferers improved their mood, reduced arthritis pain, enhanced functioning, and increased their quality of life.

The treatment helped the patients to better cope with the painful, chronic illness that affects about half of people over age 65. Patients were assigned a depression care manager who worked with their primary care physician to provide education and follow-up of depression treatment. The manager also provided patients with a brief psychotherapy course centered on solving everyday problems. The care regime improved patients’ moods, but also helped in other areas, such as reducing pain and enhancing overall quality of life.