Objective: Few data have been presented to document the impact of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on socio-economic well-being. In this study, exact figures on socio-economic consequences were assessed.
Methods: The socio-economic consequences were studied in an inception cohort (186 early RA patients, mean disease duration 3 yr) by measuring the change in work capability, income, rest during the daytime, leisure time activity, transport mobility, housing and social support occurring in the first years of the disease.
Results: For 89% of the patients, RA had an impact on one of the socio-economic items; for 58%, at least three of these items were affected simultaneously. Work disability appeared to be 4-15 times higher than in the general population. After 3 yr, 42% of the patients were registered as work disabled. Nearly a quarter of the patients experienced income reduction. Over 40% of the patients claimed extra rest during the daytime. Leisure activity changed towards activities with a lower joint load. There was a decline in transport mobility for 52% of the patients. Social support increased strongly.
Conclusions: Socio-economic change already presents in the first years of RA and appears to be influenced by age, gender, marital status and work disability. Furthermore, physical limitation appeared to be predictive for work-related income reduction, reduced transport mobility and development of social dependency.