Anxiety and Osteoarthritis Disability: Updated Overview and Commentary

Ray Marks1, *
1 Departments of Health and Behavior Studies, Columbia University, Teachers College, New York, USA

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© 2020 Ray Marks

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, Box 114, 525W, 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, United States. Tel: +1-212-678-3445, Fax: +1-212-678-8259; E-mail:



Osteoarthritis, a widespread highly painful often incapacitating joint disease continues to impose immense personal and societal challenges among adults of all ages, especially among older adults. In the absence of any effective cure or treatment, it has become essential to explore all correlates of this chronic disabling disease, especially those that might be preventable or modifiable. Anxiety, a potentially remediable state of mental distress - found linked to chronically disabling forms of arthritis, in various imperceptible ways, and which may have an immense bearing on the outcomes of osteoarthritis, has not received as much attention in the related literature as other topics, such as surgery.


In line with previous promising work, this narrative review elected to explore the extent to which current researchers in the field are pursuing this topic, and if so, the degree to which prevailing peer-reviewed data sources support an important role for continued research in this realm, and in what regard.


Primarily explored were the key databases housing relevant publications that emerged over Aug 1, 2018-Feb 26, 2020 using the keywords Osteoarthritis and Anxiety. Using a descriptive approach, the relative progress made over the past five previous years in this regard was assessed, in addition to what joints have been studied and with what frequency, and how the degree of interest compares to other currently researched osteoarthritis themes. The potential for intervening in the osteoarthritis pain cycle by addressing anxiety was also examined.


Findings show a high level of current interest in this topic, and that despite the paucity of prospective studies, studies on joints other than the knee and hip joints, some equivocal conclusions, small numbers of anxiety-related studies compared to other topics, and substantive design limitations, it appears that future research in this realm is strongly indicated.


This topic if examined further is likely to produce highly advantageous results at all stages of the osteoarthritic disease process and in the context of primary, secondary, as well as tertiary measures to ameliorate osteoarthritis pain and disability.

Keywords: Anxiety, Disability, Intervention, Osteoarthritis, Pain, Prevention, Research, Screening, Treatment.