Objective: To study the effect of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on working capabilities and social participation, including non-paying jobs, during the first 6 yr of disease.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Methods: In April 1996, a self-reporting questionnaire was sent to 424 participants of a population-based clinical trial of therapeutic strategies for early RA initiated in 1990.
Results: A total of 363 completed questionnaires were returned (response = 86%). Disease duration varied from < 1 to 6 yr (mean 2.8 yr). The employment rate was low in the RA population compared to the Dutch population. In the male 45- to 64-yr-old group, 63% of RA patients were not employed compared to 32% of the Dutch population (P < 0.01). In the female 45- to 64-yr-old group, 76% of the RA population vs 67% of the Dutch were not employed (P < 0.05). Of the employed patients, 59% reported that RA affected their working capabilities, e.g. they worked an average of 21 h per week less due to RA. Of the patients without a paying job, 41% believed that this was (partly) due to RA. In addition, fewer RA patients had non-paying jobs and they performed fewer household activities compared to the general Dutch population.
Conclusion: RA already has a negative influence on the working capabilities, social participation and household activities of these patients during the first 6 yr of disease.