No association between rheumatoid arthritis and cognitive impairment in a cross-sectional national sample of older U.S. adults

BMC Rheumatol. 2021 Aug 18;5(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s41927-021-00198-z.


Background: Studies suggest an increased prevalence of cognitive impairment (CI) among people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, most prior studies have used convenience samples which are subject to selection biases or have failed to adjust for key confounding variables. We thus examined the association between CI and RA in a large national probability sample of older US adults.

Methods: Data were from interviews with 4462 participants in the 2016 wave of the nationally representative U.S. Health and Retirement Study with linked Medicare claims. RA diagnoses were identified via a minimum of two ICD-9CM or ICD-10 codes in Medicare billing records during the prior 2 years. The Langa-Weir Classification was used to classify cognitive status as normal, cognitively impaired non-dementia (CIND), or dementia based on a brief neuropsychological battery for self-respondents and informant reports for proxy respondents. We compared the odds of CI between older adults with and without RA using logistic regression, adjusted for age, education, gender, and race.

Results: Medicare records identified a 3.36% prevalence of RA (150/4462). While age, gender, education, and race independently predicted CI status, controlling for these covariates we found no difference in CI prevalence according to RA status (prevalent CI in 36.7% of older adults with RA vs. 34.0% without RA; adjusted OR = 1.08, 95% CI 0.74-1.59, p = .69).

Conclusion: There was no association between RA and CI in this national sample of older U.S. adults.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; Epidemiology; National health survey; Rheumatoid arthritis.