A Rheumatology Attitudes Index (RAI) has been modified from the Arthritis Helplessness Index to assess the psychological construct of learned helplessness. The validity of the RAI was established in comparisons to the Arthritis Helplessness Index. The external criterion validity of the RAI was established by identification of statistically significant correlations between RAI scores and physical measures of disease status, including joint count, grip strength, walking time, and button test, as well as with questionnaire self-report scores for difficulty, dissatisfaction and pain in activities of daily living (ADL). Any variation in RAI scores which could be explained by available disease status measures was explained entirely by ADL self-report scores, with no additional explanation by traditional physical measures. Responses to individual RAI statements were significantly correlated with either questionnaire or physical measures of disease status for only 6 of the 15 RAI statements.