“Isolation is my problem. When I am in pain I avoid contact with people. This makes me depressed, which locks me in to a cycle of pain. Also tiredness makes me unable to cope with day to day chores. I then feel worthless. This prolonged bad, wet, windy weather has chained me to my home. This has aided my cycle of pain and depression.”
Pain, anxiety, depression, isolation, tiredness, loneliness, the Scottish weather. For all the good intentions of the Scottish Government – a draft Loneliness and Isolation Strategy, Mental Health Strategy, National Advisory Group on Chronic Pain – this is clearly a hard cycle to break. Even climate change, which might at least have provided some hotter weather, has only managed to deliver warmer but wetter winters! And the cycle continues.
Arthritis Care and Arthritis Research UK merged in November 2017 with a shared ambition to help people with arthritis live full and active lives. Living with the pain of arthritis can cause fatigue and depression. Mood, energy levels, sleep patterns can all be affected. This can lead to abandoning hobbies and social activities, and may even result in giving up work and, in turn, the loss of confidence and self-esteem. However, arthritis is rarely quoted when issues around mental health is being discussed even though:
- Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions and mental health problems are the causes of the greatest number of working days lost in the UK and frequently occur together.
- Among people aged 45 years or over with a mental health condition, over 40% also have arthritis. This increases with age, and at 65 years or over, more than 47% of people with mental health conditions also have arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition.
- Around 3 in 10 people of working age who have a musculoskeletal condition also have depression.
- Depression is the most common comorbidity among people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, affecting one in six people. The presence of depression alongside Rheumatoid Arthritis can also lead to a person’s pain and overall disability being worse.
- Musculoskeletal conditions are often found among people who live with other long-term conditions. For instance, by 65 years of age, almost 5 out of 10 people with a heart, lung or mental health problem also have a musculoskeletal condition.
- The presence of any long-term condition is associated with a decline in quality of life, but when arthritis or back pain is present as one of the long-term conditions, the decline is greater. Due to the high prevalence of arthritis, back pain and depression, these conditions have the largest impact on health-related quality of life at a population level.
- Overall, nearly 4 out of 10 people with two or more long term conditions such as arthritis are living with a physical and a mental health condition.
- There is a link between deprivation, arthritis and mental health conditions: people in the most deprived areas are more likely to have arthritis or a mental health condition compared to those in the least deprived areas.
- People with a mental health problem alongside a musculoskeletal condition are less likely to be in work.
It’s a long list, but it’s a list that our new merged charity will be pinning to the doors of decision-makers, resource-holders and service planners. It really is time that this condition and its impact was better understood, and that health, social care and welfare policies took it on board.
Read Arthritis Care and Arthritis Research UK’s new policy report that explores the link between arthritis and many long-term conditions.
Want to know more about the Future of Mental Health? Find out about our Conference – Tomorrow’s World Today: New Frontiers in Mental Health
Want to write a blog about mental health? Get in touch with Jenny Lester