Health

Survey reveals impact of arthritis on mental health

Around 300,000 people in Northern Ireland have arthritis
Digital staff

A survey released by Arthritis Care reveals the hidden impact that living with arthritis has on people’s mental wellbeing.

Of those surveyed in Northern Ireland 83 per cent said their condition made them feel anxious or depressed.

Those feelings are more common among people who experience severe pain and fatigue, who struggle with daily activities and who have lost contact with friends or given up activities they enjoy

Arthritis affects one fifth of adults in the UK and around 300,000 live with the condition in Northern Ireland.

This is Arthritis Care Week as well as Mental Health Awareness Week and the charity is launching Wake up to Arthritis, a new campaign to raise awareness of the seriousness of arthritis.

Key survey findings in Northern Ireland:

83% feel anxious or depressed because of their arthritis

82% have given up activities they enjoy

55% feel isolated or lonely because of their arthritis, with 50% having lost contact with friends

45% felt able to manage their arthritis well

67% struggle with daily activities like washing, dressing or making meals

92% worry about how arthritis will affect their future independence

Kate Fleck, Director of Arthritis Care Northern Ireland, said the results gave "an alarming insight into the huge emotional toll that living with arthritis is having on mental wellbeing".

“Arthritis is usually seen as a physical condition, however, we know there’s a strong link with pain and anxiety, low mood and depression.  The pain of living with arthritis and coping with fatigue means that too many people give up the activities they enjoy and put their independence at risk. 

“It’s clear that the limitation which arthritis imposes on many people’s lives is having a profound effect."

She said the findings were "a wake-up call" to the Executive, British Government, and Health & Social Care Providers to recognise the hidden impact of arthritis and ensure that people get the support they need to enjoy a full and active life.

Caitriona Roberts (24) from Belfast, has had arthritis since she was 12 and says it has been "very isolating and lonely".

"I went through a very bad stage when I was much younger where I was really down and depressed. You get forced out of bed to go to school, but that’s it - you don’t want to socialise or interact with people. It’s that feeling of self-pity and that no-one else understands what you’re going through.”

Arthritis Care (arthritiscare.org.uk) offers a range of support and services for people with arthritis, including programmes that help people to manage their condition better, a network of local branches and support groups across Northern Ireland, a telephone helpline 808 800 4050 and online community. 

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