Naturalistically Observed Sighing and Depression in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Preliminary Study

Megan L. Robbins, Matthias R. Mehl, Shannon E. Holleran, Shelley Kasle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: This study tested the degree to which naturalistically observed sighing in daily life is a behavioral indicator of depression and reported physical symptoms (i.e., experienced pain and flare days) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Design: Thirteen RA patients wore the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), an observational ambulatory assessment tool, for two weekends (Friday through Sunday) approximately one month apart. The EAR periodically recorded snippets of ambient sounds from participants' momentary environments (50 s every 18 min). Sighs were coded from the sampled ambient sounds. Main Outcome Measures: Depression was assessed with the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory. Pain during the past month was assessed with a 10-cm visual-analog scale, and number of flare days during the prior 6 months was reported. Results: Sighing was significantly and strongly related to patients' levels of depression and nonsignificantly and less strongly related to their reported pain and number of flare days. Conclusion: The findings suggest that sighing can serve as an observable marker of depression in RA patients. Because the sample size was small, the findings should be considered preliminary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-133
Number of pages5
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Ambulatory assessment
  • Ecological momentary assessment
  • Electronically activated recorder
  • Emotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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