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The glass is half full for these study participants

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A recent study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that positive attitude is linked to fewer rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms. In the study, the RA patients who reported more positive mood moments during the day had less pain and fewer arthritis-related complications than those who reported greater depressive symptoms. This is the first study to measure mood throughout the day (previous studies linked end-of-day mood to increased/decreased pain among arthritis patients).

People living with RA are twice as likely as the rest of the population to experience depression. There are several reasons depression occurs in people with RA. Sometimes it starts from the shock of diagnosis and finding out that it is an unpredictable disease that can become more painful and debilitating over time. Sometimes depression occurs because of feeling tired and unwell or isolated as a result of the disease. RA can affect the ability to work, look after family, and engage in social activities and interests. The stress that results from either of these situations can trigger depression in those who are predisposed by heredity or other factors. Click here to learn more about depression and arthritis.

There were a total of 152 participants in the study. They were given cellphones that prompted them to report their mood and pain level 5 to 7 times a day. The phone also asked them to rate pain, swelling, stiffness, and arthritis-related restrictions to routines and activities 5 times during the day. Findings show that patients with more negative or depressive mood moments throughout the day experience greater pain and discomfort, while those with more positive ratings experience fewer.

In a press release, Jennifer Graham-Engeland, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State University said: “Several of our analyses suggest that momentary positive mood is more robustly associated with momentary pain than negative mood.” She adds, “The results of this study link momentary positive and negative mood with momentary pain in daily life. That is, we found evidence consistent with a common, but largely untested, contention that mood in the moment is associated with fluctuation in pain and pain-related restrictions.”

More research is required to study causality and directionality of the effects of mood correction in order to ease pain. For now, researchers hope that the study, which targeted depression and negative emotion, will help people understand and live with the disease.