Survey: Arthritis Can Hurt Quality of Life

Researchers Find Arthritis Has Negative Impact on Physical and Mental Health

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 29, 2011 -- Arthritis may hurt more than just the joints of the 50 million Americans with the disease.

A new survey suggests arthritis negatively affects physical as well as mental health. The results show the health-related quality of life of people with arthritis was two to three times worse than people without it.

For example, 27% of people with arthritis reported fair or poor overall health compared with 12% of those without arthritis. Adults with arthritis were also more likely to report more mentally unhealthy days, overall unhealthy days, and days in which their daily activities were limited by their disease.

Arthritis Affects Daily Life

The study, published in Arthritis Care & Research, is based on data collected by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a nationally representative sample of more than 1 million U.S. adults conducted in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

Researchers compared the health-related quality of life (HRQOL, or perceived physical and mental health over time) of people with arthritis and those without arthritis. Indicators of health-related quality of life included:

  • Overall health status
  • Number of physically unwell days in the past 30 days
  • Number of mentally unhealthy days in the past 30 days
  • Days in which daily activities were restricted by poor physical or mental health
  • Overall unhealthy days calculated from the sum of physically and mentally unhealthy days

"Our analysis showed that the values for all five measures of HRQOL were 2-3 times worse in those with arthritis compared to those without," says researcher Sylvia Furner, MPH, PhD, of the school of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a news release.

Specifically, people with arthritis reported more physically unhealthy days (seven vs. three), mentally unhealthy days (five vs. three), total unhealthy days (10 vs. five), and activity-limited days (four vs. one) than those without the disease.

Researchers found people with arthritis who were physically active reported better health-related quality of life than those who were inactive.

Other factors associated with poor health-related quality of life among those with arthritis were having a low family income and being unable to work.

"Given the projected high prevalence of arthritis in the U.S., interventions should address both physical health and mental health," Furner says. "Increasing physical activity, reducing co-morbidities, and increasing access to healthcare could improve the quality of life for adults with arthritis."

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SOURCES: Furner, S. Arthritis Care & Research, online, April 29, 2011.News release, Wiley-Blackwell.

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