Work disability and its economic effect on 55-64-year-old adults with rheumatoid arthritis

Saralynn Allaire, Frederick Wolfe, Jingbo Niu, Michael Lavalley, Kaleb Michaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Objective. To examine the extent and financial impact of work disability among older workers with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods. Year 2002 data from 5,419 subjects with RA <65 years of age in the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases were used, along with US population data. Measures of work disability were employment status, part-time work, sick day use, and limitation in work demands; the latter was assessed by the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ). Measures of financial status were median household income and poverty level income. Statistical procedures included logistic and linear regression, Wilcoxon's rank sum test, and chi-square test. Results. Despite being better educated, subjects with RA ages 55-64 years had lower employment rates than individuals of the same age in the US (women 40% versus 53% and men 54% versus 66%). These older subjects with RA had stopped working more often than younger subjects with RA, and more worked part time (40% versus 34%; P < 0.01). However, the older subjects used sick time less often than younger subjects (35% versus 41%; P < 0.01) and were similarly limited in job demands, e.g., physical demands (mean WLQ subscale score 27.0 versus 26.6; P = 0.65). Median household income of older employed subjects was $20,000 greater than that of retired subjects; 56% of retired subjects had incomes lower than US median income versus 32% of employed subjects, and 11% had income below the poverty level. Conclusion. Premature work cessation in persons with RA ages 55-64 years is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-608
Number of pages6
JournalArthritis care & research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Older adults
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Work disability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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