Asking For Help Can Make Some Sad

Disability from osteoarthritis linked to depression when patients feel independence is lost

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sometimes it’s difficult to ask for help, even if it’s really needed. For some, the assistance of others is met with relief. For others, it can bring depression and sadness.

A recent study looked at depression related to osteoarthritis disability and feelings of dependence. Surveys were conducted to determine a person’s attitudes and feelings about needing help with activities.

The study links disability caused by osteoarthritis to feelings of dependence that cause depression. More than one-fourth of the women surveyed in this study displayed symptoms of depression.

"Speak to your doctor if feeling sad is normal."

Monique Gignac, PhD, of Toronto Western Research Institute and colleagues surveyed 209 women over 55 years of age with osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common disabling condition of the joints characterized by a breakdown of cartilage, which causes bones to rub together. The survey asked questions about how the women felt about seeking help in four areas. The areas explored were personal care, household activities, community mobility and valued activities. The categories were ranked on a 5 point scale. Depression was evaluated using an existing set of questions called the Center for Epidemiological Studies – Depression Scale (CES-D).

On average, participants all showed mild to moderate disability and feelings of dependence related to osteoarthritis. Symptoms that indicated depression were seen in 28.7 percent of the study participants.

The study revealed higher rates of physical disability were related to more feelings of dependence, which in turn were associated with symptoms of depression.

Gignac and colleagues suggested that needing help can have an impact on a woman’s self-image which may lead to negative moods and depression. The patient’s attitudes toward needing assistance are key factors as to whether they will develop depression.

For example, one patient may feel like having to ask for help limits their ability to do the things they need and want to do and therefore develop depression. Another patient may be grateful that with help they can still have a good quality of life and not develop depression.

Healthcare professionals may be able to help women with osteoarthritis prevent depression by encouraging patients to change the way they view seeking help. The reaction to a disability can be more important than the severity of a disability when it comes to mental well being.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 3, 2012
Last Updated:
January 21, 2013