NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Having sleep problems in addition to osteoarthritis may lead to greater disability over time, according to a new study.

“If your pain is keeping you awake today, you’re at risk of functional decline in the future,” said lead author Patricia A. Parmelee of the Center for Mental Health and Aging at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

But these are very preliminary results, she added, noting that her team is among the first to examine how pain, sleep and mental health symptoms interact over time.

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Almost 15 percent of U.S. adults over age 35 have some form of osteoarthritis, joint pain due to wear and tear on cartilage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previous studies have found that having arthritis increases the likelihood of sleep problems as well.

But it’s been unclear which comes first and what role mood plays in both pain and sleep problems.

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