A new survey highlights the significant impact of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) on mental health.
“Not enough is being done to identify mental health issues and provide the support needed to RMD patients,” said Professor Thomas Dörner, chairman of the Scientific Programme Committee for the European League against Rheumatism. “This survey highlights the huge importance of pain on the psychological well-being of RMD patients and the critical need to improve the support on offer. These results should act as a wake-up call to services across Europe.”
The survey of more than 900 RMD patients revealed that pain had caused one in 10 to have suicidal thoughts in the previous four weeks. Pain also caused 58 percent to feel that everything was unmanageable for them.
Another important finding was a reciprocal relationship between sleep and pain, where 69 percent identified the quality of their sleep as having a negative influence on their pain, according to researchers.
Two-thirds of patients reported rarely or never feeling fully rested when they woke up in the morning, with 36 percent taking painkillers to improve their sleep, they noted.
“Our study indicates that pain and poor quality of sleep have a huge impact on a patient’s daily life, especially on their mental health,” said Lene Mandrup Thomsen of the Danish Rheumatism Association in Denmark. “We are using the results of this study in our political work to help campaign for better treatment and support for patients with chronic pain in our healthcare system.”
Of the study’s participants, 83 percent had pain daily or several times a week and 46 percent had received strong painkillers over the last year. Despite a strong focus from Danish authorities on reducing their prescriptions, less than a quarter of respondents had been offered an alternative to strong painkillers, researchers report.
The results of the survey were presented at the 2019 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR).
Results of another survey, also presented at EULAR 2019, support these findings by revealing a worrying lack of psychological care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and adult juvenile idiopathic arthritis (AJIA) in the UK.
Half of the respondents with rheumatoid arthritis and a third of those with AJIA who had either clinical levels or a formal diagnosis of anxiety or depression had never received any psychological support, according to the study’s findings.
“Our results highlight that, despite guidelines, many patients in the UK are not receiving the psychological support they need,” said Dr. Hayley McBain, a health psychologist at the University of London. “It is imperative for rheumatology services to routinely measure anxiety and depression in order to intervene before the individual is in crisis.”
This survey was conducted by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society in the UK and was designed by patients and researchers. Participants were recruited via social media platforms, membership and non-membership lists, and in newsletters and forums.