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How does rheumatoid arthritis affect work?

Although rheumatoid arthritis is more common in older people, it also affects many people of working age. The impact of this condition on individuals and society can be assessed by looking at its effect on employment. Up to 40 per cent of people with rheumatoid arthritis lose their jobs within five years because of their condition1:

  • between 1 in 5 and 1 in 7 leave work within 1 year of diagnosis
  • between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 leave work within 2 years
  • 2 in 5 leave work within 5 years2

Based on the data above, assuming that 50 per cent of all new cases starting between the ages of 25–64 years are in employment at the time of diagnosis, between 970–1,590 people will give up work in their first year after diagnosis each year in the UK because of their condition.


1.    Young A, Dixey J, Kulinskaya E, Cox N, Davies P, Devlin J et al. Which patients stop working because of rheumatoid arthritis? Results of five years' follow up in 732 patients from the Early RA Study (ERAS). Ann Rheum Dis 2002; 61(4):335-40.

2.    Barrett EM, Scott DG, Wiles NJ, Symmons DP. The impact of rheumatoid arthritis on employment status in the early years of disease: a UK community-based study. Rheumatology 2000; 39(12):1403-9.

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