(HealthDay News) – Patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience significantly less psychological stress and physical disability compared with two decades ago, which may be partially due to a reduction in disease activity, according to a study published online Dec. 3 in Arthritis Care & Research.

To assess how changes in the management of rheumatoid arthritis over time has affected patients, Cecile L. Overman, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed depressed mood, anxiety, and physical disability in 1,151 patients with rheumatoid arthritis at diagnosis and after three to five years of follow-up between 1990 and 2011.

Over the two decades, the researchers found a significant reduction in the percentage of patients with depressed mood (25% to 14%), anxiety (23% to 12%), and physical disability (53% to 31%). The reduction in physical disability remained significant even after taking reduction in disease activity into account.

“The results indicate that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have better opportunity to live a valued life nowadays than 20 years ago,” Overman and colleagues conclude.

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