Objective: To determine the effects of group education followed by booster sessions for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to determine whether participation of a significant other influenced the effects.
Methods: A total of 218 RA patients, each of them with a partner, took part in the study. Two-thirds of the patients received a 5-week group self-management education program, with booster sessions after 3, 6, and 9 months; half of them received the intervention with a partner, and half without. One-third of the patients received the same educational materials without group sessions. Data were collected 1 week before the group sessions began and 2, 6, and 12 months later. The assessments included health behavior, arthritis self-efficacy, health status, and social interactions.
Results: After 12 months, self-efficacy scores for coping with other symptoms were significantly higher for patients participating in the group education without a partner and significantly lower for patients participating in the group education with a partner. Fatigue increased in patients participating in the group education with a significant other and decreased in patients participating in the group education without a significant other. No other effects were found on health status, health behavior, or social interactions.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that participation of a significant other in psychoeducational programs does not have only positive effects. Instead of stimulating patients to adopt beneficial health behaviors and increase their self-efficacy expectations, participation of a significant other led in our program to decreases in self-efficacy and increased fatigue, whereas patients participating in group education without partners showed increases in self-efficacy and decreased fatigue. Booster sessions did not seem to influence results.