, Volume 10, Issue 7, pp 1328–1338 | Cite as

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction with Individuals Who Have Rheumatoid Arthritis: Evaluating Depression and Anxiety as Mediators of Change in Disease Activity

  • Francesca A. FogartyEmail author
  • Roger J. Booth
  • Arier C. Lee
  • Nicola Dalbeth
  • Nathan S. Consedine


Although the current randomized controlled trial has previously reported an effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on improving disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the possible mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unknown. This report presents secondary analyses examining anxiety and depression as potential mediators of the effect of MBSR on changes in RA disease activity. Fifty-one RA patients were randomized to either MBSR or to a wait-list control group. Depression and anxiety (Hospital and Anxiety Depression Scale) and RA disease activity (DAS28-CRP) were assessed at baseline (T1), post-treatment (T2), and at two (T3) and four (T4) months’ follow-up. Intention to treat (ITT) and per protocol (PP) analyses using multivariate analyses of variance showed that depression was lower in the MBSR than in the control group, post-treatment and at both follow-up time points. PP analyses suggested that anxiety was lower in the MBSR than in the control group post-treatment. In partial support of expectation, mediation analyses showed that a reduction in depression across the intervention (T2-T1) mediated the effect of MBSR on improvements in RA disease activity at both follow-up time points (T3-T1; T4-T1). This effect held across ITT and PP analyses. PP analyses also suggested an indirect effect of MBSR on RA disease activity via increased anxiety at T3, but not at T4. Together, findings suggest that improvements in depression (rather than anxiety) may mediate the effect of MBSR on RA disease activity. Screening for, and treating depression in RA with MBSR, may have downstream benefits for RA disease activity.


Randomized controlled trial Mindfulness-based stress reduction RA disease activity Depression Mediation 


Author Contributions

FF: collaborated in designing and executing the study, conducted the data analyses and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript. RB: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. AL: advised in relation to the data analyses used, and the writing up of results. NC: collaborated in the design and writing of the study. NC: collaborated in the design of the study and the writing and editing of the manuscript.


This study was funded by a grant from The Oakley Mental Health Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Northern Regional Ethics Committee (New Zealand) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological MedicineUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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