Research supports the role of chronic stress in the development of chronic disease. This scoping review aimed to map the research field by exploring relationships between chronic stress and arthritis development in adult populations. Eligible qualitative studies investigated individuals’ perceived causes of arthritis; quantitative studies investigated relationships between exposure to a chronic stressor and an arthritis presence outcome. Two independent reviewers screened articles, and data were narratively synthesized.

Of 1819 unique records, 54 studies met inclusion criteria. Studies increased chronologically, with half published since 2010. Chronic stress exposures were heterogeneous; most were categorized as adverse life events or adverse childhood experiences (n = 17). Self‐reported arthritis was the most frequent measure of arthritis outcome (n = 26) in quantitative studies. A majority of studies proposed an association between exposure to arthritis development and chronic stressors.

In conclusion, the increasing study numbers in the past decade might reflect an increasing awareness of the potential impact of chronic stress in arthritis development, consistent with a biopsychosocial approach to chronic disease management and etiology. Further research is required to establish a causal relationship between exposure to chronic stressors and the development of specific arthritis conditions.