Abstract of paper presented at the European Students Conference at the Humboldt University of Berlin 15-19th October 1997.


Helen Murphy, Francis Creed
University of Manchester

Depression, Illness Perception and Coping in Rheumatoid Arthritis


In the context of research into psychological aspects of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), this study examined depression, illness perception and coping. The study tested the hypothesis that depressed RA patients have, in comparison to non-depressed RA patients: i) a different perception of their illness; and ii) decreased ability to cope.


62 patients were interviewed at outpatients clinic to assess their clinical history and disease severity. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HAD), Health Attitudes Questionnaire (HAQ), London Coping with RA Questionnaire and the new Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ) were also completed.


Probable depression was found amongst 17% of RA patients. Depression was associated with components of illness perception, avoidance coping strategies, pain and disability, but not with demographic variables or current disease activity. After controlling for disability, the association with coping was no longer significant but a strong correlation remained between depression and 2 components of illness perception: Depressed patients were more likely to: a) view the consequences of their illness as being serious (P = 0.002); and b) believe they have little control over their illness and that it will not be cured (P = 0.025). Depressed patients were also significantly less satisfied with their treatment.


The prevelence of probable depression is similar to that of previous studies. This study indicates there is a close relationship between depression in RA and a negative view of the consequence of illness - this relationship remains strong even when the level of disability due to arthritis is controlled. Differences in coping, however, were more likely to be related to level of disability