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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Mental disorders in a population sample with musculoskeletal disorders

Scott B Patten1*, Jeanne VA Williams1 and JianLi Wang2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 4N1, Canada

2 Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary, 1403 – 29th Street NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 2T9, Canada

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2006, 7:37  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-37

Published: 25 April 2006



Studies using clinical and volunteer samples have reported an elevated prevalence of mood disorders in association with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Clinical studies using anxiety rating scales have reported inconsistent results, but studies using diagnostic instruments have reported that anxiety disorders may be even more strongly associated with arthritis than is depression. One study reported an association between lifetime substance use disorders and arthritis.


Data from iteration 1.2 of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) were used. This was a large-scale national Canadian health survey which administered the World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview to a sample of 36,984 subjects randomly selected from the national population. In the CCHS 1.2, subjects were asked whether they had been diagnosed by a health professional with arthritis or rheumatism.


Subjects reporting arthritis or rheumatism had an elevated prevalence of mood, anxiety and substance use disorders. The strength of association resembled that seen in an omnibus category reporting any chronic condition, but was weaker than that seen with back pain or fibromyalgia. The effect of arthritis or rheumatism interacted with age, such that the odds ratios became smaller with increasing age. Mood and anxiety disorders, along with arthritis or rheumatism made an independent contribution to disability.


Arthritis is associated with psychiatric morbidity in the general population, and this morbidity is seen across a variety of mental disorders. The strength of association is consistent with that seen in persons with other self-reported medical conditions.