Social network size of female patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared to healthy controls

Scand J Rheumatol. 2000;29(1):38-43. doi: 10.1080/030097400750001789.


To estimate how rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the disease duration, and level of physical disability, influence the total size of patients' social network and the size of different subsets. Two hundred sixty four female patients (mean age 57 yrs) with RA of more than 6 yrs duration (mean 20 yrs) were compared to 61 healthy controls matched for sex, age, and residential area. Network size was measured by Social Network Delineation Questionnaire (SNDQ), physical disability by Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ). RA patients had a significantly smaller total network compared to the healthy controls (RA: 15.8 persons;

Controls: 18.1), mostly due to a significant difference in the subset of important others in favour of the controls (RA: 1.1;

Controls: 2.3). There were no significant differences regarding the network size of family, friends, and neighbours. The same results remained after statistical control for sociodemographic variables. Neither disease duration nor physical disability had any significant association with network size. The interaction analysis did, however, show that non-working patients with long disease duration (> 15 yrs) had fewer important others than occupationally active patients. Furthermore, a high degree of physical disability was related to a smaller number of friends for patients > 57 yrs than for equally disabled patients below this age. Most patients with RA seem to maintain contact with the family network-members, despite the challenges connected with chronic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Educational Status
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Support*