Sick leave and work disability in patients with early arthritis

Clin Rheumatol. 2008 Jan;27(1):11-9. doi: 10.1007/s10067-007-0642-x. Epub 2007 May 10.


We studied the occurrence of sick leave and work disability, the presence of workplace adaptations and the usage of professional guidance related to working problems in patients with early arthritis. Inclusion criteria were arthritis symptoms of less than 2 years duration and a paid job at the time of diagnosis. Assessments were done in connection with an early arthritis clinic (EAC) at entry into the cohort and 12 months thereafter by means of a questionnaire comprising questions on sick leave (absenteeism from work reported to the employer), work disability (receiving a full or partial work disability pension), unemployment, work adaptations and professional guidance related to working problems. Fifty-seven of the 69 participants (83%) had an arthritis symptom duration of <6 months. The number of patients with sick leave due to arthritis in the past 12 months decreased from 28 (41%) at study entry to 18 (26%) after 12 months of follow-up. The number of patients receiving a work disability pension increased from 5 (7%) at study entry to 13 (19%) after 12 months of follow-up (10 partial and 3 full). Sick leave in the 12 months before study entry appeared to be the most important predictor of the institution or increase in a work disability pension (odds ratio, 16.1; 95%CI, 1.8-142.8). Between study entry and follow-up, the number of patients with workplace adaptations increased from 20 (29%) to 28 (42%), whereas the number of patients receiving vocational guidance decreased from 48 (70%) to 36 (52%). In patients with early arthritis and a paid job, arthritis-related sick leave was common and occurred in part before patients entered the EAC and a diagnosis was made. About 20% of the patients became permanently work disabled, with partial work disability being more common than full work disability. Considerable proportions of patients received workplace adaptations and professional guidance with working problems.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Employment* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Rehabilitation, Vocational
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sick Leave* / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work Capacity Evaluation*