Depressive Symptoms and the Arthritis–Employment Interface: A Population‐Level Study Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship between depressive symptoms, arthritis, and employment, and to determine whether this relationship differs across young, middle-age, and older working-age adults with arthritis. METHODS: Data from the US National Health Interview Survey from 2013-2017 were analyzed. Analyses were restricted to adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis of working age (ages 18-64 years) with complete data on depressive symptoms (n = 11,380). Covariates were sociodemographic information, health, and health system utilization variables. Employment prevalence was compared by self-reported depressive symptoms. We estimated percentages, as well as univariable and multivariable logistic regression models, to examine the relationship between depression and employment among young adults (ages 18-34 years), middle-age adults (ages 35-54 years), and older adults (ages 55-64 years). RESULTS: Among all working-age US adults with arthritis, the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 13%. Those reporting depressive symptoms had a higher prevalence of fair/worse health (60%) and arthritis-attributable activity limitations (70%) compared to those not reporting depression (23% and 39%, respectively). Respondents with depressive symptoms reported significantly lower employment prevalence (30%) when compared to those not reporting depressive symptoms (66%) and lower multivariable-adjusted association with employment (prevalence ratio 0.88 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.83-0.93]). Middle-age adults reporting depression were significantly less likely to be employed compared to their counterparts without depression (prevalence ratio 0.83 [95% CI 0.77-0.90]); similar but borderline statistically significant relationships were observed for both young adults (prevalence ratio 0.86 [95% CI 0.74-0.99]) and older adults (prevalence ratio 0.94 [95% CI 0.86-1.03]). CONCLUSION: For adults with arthritis, depressive symptoms are associated with not participating in employment. Strategies to reduce arthritis-related work disability may be more effective if they simultaneously address mental health.


  • Jetha, Arif
  • Theis, Kristina A
  • Boring, Michael A
  • Murphy, Louise B
  • Guglielmo, Dana

publication date

  • January 2021