Work limitations among working persons with rheumatoid arthritis: Results, reliability, and validity of the work limitations questionnaire in 836 patients

Nancy Walker, Kaleb Michaud, Frederick Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Objective. To describe workplace limitations and the validity and reliability of the Work Limitations Questionnaire (WLQ) in persons with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods. A total of 836 employed persons with RA reported clinical and work related measures and completed the WLQ, a 25 item questionnaire that assesses the impact of chronic health conditions on job performance and productivity. Limitations are categorized into 4 domains: physical demands (PDS), mental demands (MDS), time management demands (TMS), and output demands (ODS), which are then used to calculate the WLQ index. Results. Of the 836 completed WLQ, about 10% (85) could not be scored, as more than half the items in each domain were not applicable to the patient's job. Demographic and clinical variables were associated with missing WLQ scores including older age (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.3-2.1), male sex (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.2-3.0), and Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.0-2.0). Work limitations were present in all work domains: PDS (27.5%), MDS (15.7%). ODS (19.4%), and TMS (28.6%), resulting in a mean WLQ index of 5.9 (SD 5.6), which corresponds to a 4.9% decrease in productivity and a 5.1% increase in work hours to compensate for productivity loss. The WLQ index was inversely associated with Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 (SF-36) Mental Component Score (MCS; r = -0.60) and Physical Component Score (PCS; r = -0.49). Fatigue (0.5), pain (0.46), and HAQ (0.56) were also significantly associated with the WLQ index. Weaker associations were seen with days unable to perform (0.29), days activities cut down (0.38), and annual income (-0.10). Conclusion. The WLQ is a reliable tool for assessing work productivity. However, persons with RA tend to select jobs that they can do with their RA limitations, with the result that the WLQ does not detect functional limitations as well as the HAQ and SF-36. The WLQ provides special information that is not available using conventional measures of assessment, and can provide helpful knowledge about individual patient problems in the workplace. Whether this information will have greater predictive ability and clinical relevance compared with surrogate measures such as the HAQ and SF-36 has not been determined, but should be the subject of future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1006-1012
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Work
  • Work limitations questionnaire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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