Background: Rheumatic diseases of childhood, in particular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, are chronic conditions associated with considerable morbidity and mortality that can have repercussions on aspects of adult life. The aim of this study was to determine the employment rate and social status of patients with childhood-onset rheumatic disease attending a pediatric rheumatology transition unit.
Methods: A census was taken of patients seen in the Pediatric Rheumatology Transition Unit of Hospital Vall d'Hebron (Barcelona, Spain). We collected demographic and clinical variables and determined the patients' functional capacity. All patients seen during the period of September to December 2013 underwent a survey containing items related to their social situation, maximum academic level achieved, and working life. Correlations were sought between clinical variables associated with a poor prognosis and the patients' job performance. The data were analyzed and compared with those of an age-matched cohort from the general population of Catalonia.
Results: Of 130 patients included in the census, 96 responded to the survey. Steinbrocker grade III and IV disability (poorer functional capacity) (p = 0.0025) and longer disease duration (p = 0.017) were significantly related to greater difficulty getting a job. Patients with grade III and IV disability and those with more severe disease showed trends to having more problems carrying out work-related tasks. Our cohort included a higher percentage of students than the age-matched comparison population (50 % vs 24 %, respectively) (p = 0.0001); 82 % of patients had completed studies beyond the compulsory education level. The employment rate was lower in our patient cohort than in the comparison cohort (38.3 % vs 59.9 %) (p = 0.0001), whereas the percentage of unemployed was similar. Patients with milder disease had a higher probability of living with their parents up to a later age (OR = 3.2, 95 % CI 0.38-6.15; p = 0.029).
Conclusions: Despite the advances in treatment, some patients with childhood-onset rheumatic disease encounter difficulties in their later social and working life. In our cohort, the time period needed to complete their studies tended to be longer, and incorporation into the workforce occurred at a later age. Our findings reinforce the idea that psychological support and vocational guidance are important factors in the management of these patients.