Can Osteoarthritis Knee Pain Lead to Symptoms of Depression?

A new Japanese study finds that among non-depressed older adults with osteoarthritis knee pain, nearly 12 percent will go on to develop symptoms of depression within two years. Participants at greatest risk for depression include those who experience knee pain while lying in bed at night, while putting on socks, or while getting in or out of a car.

The researchers suggest that asking older adults whether or not they have severe knee pain may help identify those at risk for depression. The new findings are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Osteoarthritis occurs when a joint becomes inflamed. This typically happens when the protective cartilage and other tissues that cushion joints (such as the knee) become damaged and worn over time. Knee pain from osteoarthritis can make it more difficult to take care of yourself, which can damage one’s quality of life which, in turn, can lead to depression.

It is estimated that around 13 percent of American women and 10 percent of American men aged 60 or older have knee pain due to osteoarthritis.

The researchers decided to analyze the effects of knee pain on depression since, until now, few studies have focused on this particular link. The study took place in Japan, where research has shown that knee osteoarthritis affects around 55 percent of people over age 40.

To do this, the research team looked at data from 573 people aged 65 or older who participated in the Kurabuchi Study, an ongoing study investigating the health of older adults living in central Japan.

When the research began between the years 2005 and 2006, none of the participants had symptoms of depression. Two years later, nearly all of the participants completed follow-up interviews. They answered questions about their knee pain and were evaluated for symptoms of depression.

The findings reveal that nearly 12 percent of the participants had developed symptoms of depression. People who suffered from knee pain at night while lying in bed, while putting on socks, or while getting in or out of a car were more likely to report having symptoms of depression, noted the researchers.

The researchers conclude that asking older adults with knee pain whether they have pain at night in bed, when putting on socks, or while getting in or out of a car could be useful for helping to identify people at risk for developing depression.

Source: American Geriatrics Society