Ms. Dalainey Drakes
Supervisors: Dr. Jonathan Fawcett and Dr. Emily Fawcett
Ms. Drakes was awarded a 2020 ARC-NL Graduate Fellowship for her project entitled,
Anxiety and Depression in Rheumatoid Arthritis Across the Lifespan.
ARC-NL: What piqued your interest in this area of research?
As an individual personally diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) at the age of 22, I have first-hand experience engaging with the greater RA community and author-founder of a peer support platform on Instagram. It is through peer support and my work as an advocate that I have personally witnessed the detrimental impact that the lack of access to efficacious psychological care and sheer disregard for the impact of comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders on one’s quality of life, symptom severity, and overall prognosis of those afflicted by RA. Many are informed of being at risk for comorbid emotional disorders but are provided with minimal to no psychological support beyond the initial acknowledgment as many healthcare professionals advise it is outside of their scope. My fellowship research aids in addressing the current discrepancy between medical professional acknowledgment of the high prevalence of psychiatric comorbidity in RA and actual integration of a biopsychosocial approach to care for condition management.
ARC-NL: Can you please provide a brief synopsis of your specific project?
RA is a chronic autoimmune disease with no known cause characterized by an inflammatory response targeting the joints, arteries, skin, and – in aggressive cases – the organs of diagnosed individuals. The agonizing nature of this condition often brings damaging consequences for the physical and psychological well-being of an estimated 1-3% of the population worldwide with two times the risk for women than men. Anxiety and depressive disorders have been acknowledged as the most common psychiatric conditions impacting those with RA and are exacerbated by the magnitude of perceived social support, poor psychological adjustment to diagnosis, increased level of disease activity, level of physical impairment, and type of medical treatment received. The detrimental effect of RA is intensified when comorbid with anxiety and depression, which has been linked to heightened pain, increased inflammation, decline in treatment adherence, diminished quality of life, and a lower chance of achieving disease remission. For these reasons, my research project aimed to quantify the prevalence of anxiety and depressive disorders in RA across the lifespan and to determine when those with RA are at greatest risk for the co-occurrence of both conditions.
ARC-NL: How did getting the support of the ARC-NL ARC-NL Graduate Fellowship assist you with your project?
The support provided from ARC-NL assisted with the facilitation of my research as it provided the opportunity for me to dedicate additional research time to a personal project of interest by providing a supplemental source of income for the duration of its completion. Furthermore, ARC-NL provided an excellent platform for me to engage with a variety of health researchers for their insight and expertise. ARC-NL also provided the wonderful opportunity for me to personally connect with community members of all ages in Newfoundland who have personally reach out to share their lived experiences with me and to share their support of my research endeavours.
ARC-NL: How do you feel your research will benefit the aging population of Newfoundland and Labrador? Canada?
Although RA does discriminate based on age, the prevalence notably spikes in aging populations with a peak among those in their 60s with average diagnosis occurring at 66.8 years old. Coupled with the debilitating nature of RA symptoms, this population also faces increased incidence of physical disability and risk for comorbid psychiatric diagnoses. This is particularly true for elderly populations who are at greater risk for deterioration of physical health across the lifespan and the potential for diminished social support over time. As a result, this may contribute to increased prevalence of anxiety and depression but may also hinder whether these psychiatric disorders are readily recognized or diagnosed in older adults with RA. Therefore, my research also will bring to clarity amongst the research literature as to when the aging population with RA may experience increased and decreased risk for comorbid anxiety and depression.
ARC-NL: Is there any past experience that you feel is pertinent to your success today?
My inside perspective living with RA further ignites my passion to take an active role in conducting research to inform clinicians’ approach to treatment planning and the lives of those living with comorbid psychiatric or health and pain conditions.