Objective: To explore how life events, psychosocial factors, and demographic variables are related to one-year changes in disability in early rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: A sample of 238 patients with RA of 48 mo duration or less was examined at baseline and after 12 mo (n = 227; 95%). Data on life events and psychosocial variables were collected by structured interviews, and functional disability was measured by the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ). Analyses of variance and forward stepwise linear regression analyses were used as statistical procedures.
Results: Mean functional disability measured by the HAQ was relatively low at baseline and remained stable during one year. Positive life events experienced during the past year were significantly related to improved physical ability, whereas female sex was significantly related to reduction in ability. Neither age, income, education, number of network members, symptoms of mental distress, nor negative life events in the past year significantly predicted one-year changes in functional limitations.
Conclusion: The experience of positive life events during the past year was significantly related to a reduction in disability in this prospective study of 238 patients with early RA. This finding adds to our knowledge regarding the relationship between psychosocial factors and disease progression in RA.