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Integrating mental health into arthritis treatment

Research awardFellows Award programme

Funding period2017 - 2020

InstitutionKings College London

Location United Kingdom


Dr Sam Norton is developing an app to help efficiently incorporate mental healthcare into treatment for people living with rheumatoid arthritis. 

The project 

Half a million people in the UK live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a condition that causes joint inflammation, pain, stiffness and fatigue. Around a third of these people also experience a mental health condition. 

Current drug treatments for RA can be helpful, but around 40% of people experience ongoing pain, fatigue and mental health problems even when the drug treatments have reduced inflammation. A personalised  treatment approach that accurately targets both physical and mental health symptoms could be transformative. 

So, Dr Sam Norton at Kings College London is creating an app to help healthcare professionals track symptoms and identify people at risk of ongoing problems. This will help healthcare professionals and people with RA select the most effective treatments and make the most of the time available in appointments.

The process

Sam’s research will follow a three-part process:

  • A literature review and analysis of historical data to understand how the number of people with RA and mental health problems has changed over time.
  • Development of a statistical model using data from large observational studies of people starting drug treatment to identify the people most likely to experience ongoing issues.
  • Development of an app to help healthcare staff track their patients symptoms so they can consider a wider range of related issues – including mental health problems – when treating patients who have arthritis. 

The potential

Health organisations across the world recognise the need to incorporate mental health into treatment plans for physical health problems, but too often this doesn’t happen. 

The digital tool created by Sam can help to make mental health an important priority within arthritis care. This integration has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people who live with arthritis and other long-term conditions.

This project is jointly funded with Arthritis Research UK.

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