The United States has a deficit of rheumatology specialists. This leads to an increased burden in accessing care for patients requiring specialized care. Given that most rheumatologists are located in urban centers at large hospitals, many lupus patients must travel long distances for routine appointments. The present work aims to determine whether travel burden is associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety among these patients. Data for this study were collected from baseline visits of patients participating in a lupus study at MUSC. A travel/economic burden survey was assessed as well as the 8-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8) and the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) survey as measures of depression and anxiety, respectively. Linear regression models were used to assess the relationship between travel burden and depression and anxiety. Frequency of healthcare visits was significantly associated with increased depression (β = 1.3, p = 0.02). Significant relationships were identified between anxiety and requiring time off from work for healthcare appointments (β = 4, p = 0.02), and anxiety and perceived difficulty in traveling to primary care providers (β = 3.1, p = 0.04). Results from this study provide evidence that travel burden can have an effect on lupus patients’ anxiety and depression levels.

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Published in Healthcare, v. 9, issue 11, 1507.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This research was funded by NIH/NIAMS, grant number P30 AR072582 and NIH/NINR, grant number R01 NR017892.