Importance: Little is known about the association of poverty with functional status (FS) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who use rheumatology care.
Objectives: To examine the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and FS among patients with RA and to evaluate the association between SES and functional declines over time in patients who received at least some rheumatology care.
Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study used data from the American College of Rheumatology's Rheumatology Informatics System for Effectiveness (RISE) registry between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2018. Analyses included all adult patients with a confirmed RA diagnosis (ie, had ≥2 encounters associated with RA International Classification of Diseases codes ≥30 days apart) and at least 1 FS score documented between 2016 and 2018 seen at participating rheumatology practices. Data analysis was conducted from April to December 2020.
Exposures: The Area Deprivation Index (ADI), a zip code-based indicator of neighborhood poverty, was used as a proxy for SES. ADI scores were categorized into quintiles.
Main outcomes and measures: FS measures included Multidimensional Health Assessment Questionnaire (MDHAQ), Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability index, and Health Assessment Questionnaire-II. Cross-sectionally, mean FS scores were compared across ADI quintiles. Longitudinally, among patients with at least 2 FS scores, multilevel multivariate regression computed the probability of functional decline, defined as a change greater than the minimum clinically important difference, across ADI quintiles. In a subgroup analysis, whether disease activity mediated the association between SES and functional decline was examined.
Results: Of the 83 965 patients included in the study, 66 649 (77%) were women, and 60 037 (72%) were non-Hispanic White. Mean (SD) age was 63.4 (13.7) years. MDHAQ was the most reported FS measure (56 928 patients [67.8%]). For all measures, mean (SD) FS score was worse at lower SES levels (eg, for MDHAQ quintile 1: 1.79 [1.87]; quintile 5: 2.43 [2.17]). In longitudinal analyses, the probability of functional decline was 14.1% (95% CI, 12.5%-15.7%) in the highest SES quintile and 18.9% (95% CI, 17.1%-20.7%) in the lowest SES quintile. The association between SES and functional decline was partially mediated (7%; 95% CI, 4%-22%) by disease activity.
Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study of patients with RA, worse FS and faster declines in functioning over time were observed in patients with lower SES. These findings provide a framework for monitoring disparities in RA and for generating evidence to spur action toward achieving health equity.