New research shows that a typical person living with arthritis is 20% less likely to be in work than those without the condition.
Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation of the joint. It affects millions of people of all ages in the UK. There are various types of this condition, the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. People living with arthritis can have a reduced quality of life, including being unable to work or socialise.
A new study published by the University of Leeds matched a group of 18,000 people living with arthritis to another group of 18,000 people with similar characteristics but no arthritis. Characteristics included in the study were age, gender, level of education, ethnicity and where they lived.
People living with arthritis struggle to work
The researchers used two decades of data from people aged 18-80. The team compared 18,000 people living with arthritis to 18,000 without the condition to further understand how it affects people’s lives.
The study showed that as people living with arthritis reach middle age, the likelihood of working reduced significantly than those who do not have the condition. Many of these will have taken early retirement. This finding was seen in people without university-level education, this may be because symptoms are often easier to manage in professional jobs rather than in manual roles.
Once both men and women reach 60, their chances of being in work whilst living with arthritis are reduced when compared to people without the condition.
Career choice impacts the likelihood of working
People with a history of working in routine, such as lorry drivers, and intermediate occupational groups, such as paramedics, were also less likely to still be in work if they had arthritis. However, this was not the case for people in professional work like lawyers. Arthritis did not appear to affect these individuals, but for some people in this group, fewer hours and lower earnings were reported. This was especially noticeable in women aged over 40.
Furthermore, among people living with arthritis, those who worked for small private companies were also generally less likely to be in work than people with arthritis who had worked in large companies or the public sector.
Dr Martin said: “In light of this research, people living with arthritis told us that potential interventions could involve making appropriate adjustments to the working environment, tackling workplace discrimination and supporting changes in people’s roles.
“Existing evidence suggests that providing personalised case management by an occupational health practitioner could help to encourage constructive dialogue between employees, healthcare practitioners and employers.
“Our study indicates that such support could be especially cost-effective if it is designed for and targeted for the people we identified who are most at risk of poor work outcomes.”