Objective: To study the occurrence of sick leave and to identify work characteristics related to sick leave in patients with early inflammatory joint conditions.
Methods: Patients with inflammatory joint conditions present for <12 months were included in this cross-sectional study. Approximately 85% of patients satisfying the criteria participated. Data collection included demographics, clinical characteristics, pain, physical functioning and mental health (Short Form 36), fatigue, and behavioral coping (Coping of Rheumatic Stressors questionnaire). Work characteristics included physical load, psychosocial load, job control, and support at work. Outcome was defined as sick leave for >2 weeks during the past 6 months. Multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted.
Results: Sick leave was reported by 54 (26%) of 210 employed patients, with 75% of the sick leave periods attributed to joint conditions. Of these 210 patients, 23% were classified as having rheumatoid arthritis (RA), 35% as having non-RA arthritis, and 42% as having inflammatory joint conditions without synovitis. Pain, poor physical functioning, and passive behavioral coping were related to increased sick leave, whereas diagnostic group was not. Low job control, i.e., low control over planning and pacing of activities within the job, was associated with increased sick leave (odds ratio [OR] 2.74), whereas being a supervisor (OR 0.21) and clerical work (OR 0.45) were related to reduced sick leave.
Conclusion: Substantial sick leave in the past 6 months was reported by 26% of patients with early inflammatory joint conditions. Pain, functional limitations, and fewer opportunities to determine one's work activities were associated with the occurrence of sick leave.