How does rheumatoid arthritis affect quality of life?

Rheumatoid arthritis can be a significant cause of disability and have considerable impact on quality of life. Functional limitations and disability associated with rheumatoid arthritis can also have a negative impact on emotional wellbeing by affecting self-esteem and self-image.

Perceived health status

People's perceptions of their own health have been shown to be good predictors of their future health care use and their long-term survival [1,2]. While it may not always be equivalent to health status as measured by a medical professional, self-perceived health measures do reflect a person's perception of his/her own health at a given point in time [3].

Based on self-reported data from the ABS 2014–15 National Health Survey, people aged 15 and over with rheumatoid arthritis are less likely to perceive their health as excellent, very good, or good than people without the condition. People with rheumatoid arthritis were 4.7 times as likely to report their health as poor (18%) compared to those without the condition (3.9%).

Figure 1: Self-assessed health of people aged 15 and over with and without rheumatoid arthritis, 2014–15

The vertical bar chart shows that, people aged 15 and over with rheumatoid arthritis were less likely to perceive their health as excellent or very good than people without rheumatoid arthritis. People with rheumatoid arthritis were 4.7 times as likely to report their health as poor (18%25) compared to those without rheumatoid arthritis (3.9%25).

Notes: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: National Health Survey, 2014–15 (Data table).

Psychological distress

The limitations imposed by rheumatoid arthritis can affect the psychological wellbeing of those affected and also the psychological wellbeing of their family and carers [4].

People aged 18 and over with rheumatoid arthritis were 3 times as likely to report very high levels of psychological distress (11%) compared to those without the condition (3.6%) according to the 2014–15 NHS.

Figure 2: Psychological distress experienced by people aged 18 and over with and without rheumatoid arthritis, 2014–15

The vertical bar chart shows that, people aged 18 and over with rheumatoid arthritis were 3 times as likely to report very high levels of psychological distress (11%25) than those without rheumatoid arthritis (3.6%25).

Notes: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: National Health Survey, 2014–15 (Data table).

Pain

Pain is one of the major symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, although the level of pain experienced will differ between individuals and over time.

People aged 18 and over with rheumatoid arthritis were 4.4 times as likely to report severe bodily pain in the last 4 weeks (28%) compared to those without the condition (6.5%) according to the 2014–15 NHS. People with rheumatoid arthritis were also 2.2 times as likely to experience very severe bodily pain (3.2%) compared to people without rheumatoid arthritis (1.4%).

Figure 3: Pain experienced by people aged 18 and over with and without rheumatoid arthritis, 2014–15

The vertical bar chart shows that people aged 18 and over with rheumatoid arthritis were 2.2 times as likely to report very severe pain (3.2%25) compared with those without rheumatoid arthritis (1.4%25).

Notes: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: National Health Survey, 2014–15 (Data table).

References

  1. Doiron D, Fiebig DG, Johar M, Suziedelytec A, 2015. Does self-assessed health measure health? Applied Economics. 2015, 47(2):180–194.
  2. van Doorslaer E & Gerdtham UG, 2003. Does inequality in self-assessed health predict inequality in survival by income? evidence from Swedish data. Social Science & Medicine, 57(9):1621–1629.
  3. ABS 2012. Australian Health Survey: first results, 2011–12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 7 December 2014.
  4. Gettings L, 2010. Psychological wellbeing in rheumatoid arthritis: a review of the literature. Musculoskeletal Care. 8:99–106.