Young people hold varying beliefs about the causes of juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Published on 04 February 2013
Young people hold varying beliefs about the causes of juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Young people hold a range of different views about the underlying causes of juvenile inflammatory arthritis (JIA), an Arthritis Research UK-funded study has found.

A team of researchers, including Tiffany Vracas, Wendy Thomson and Kimme Hyrich from the Arthritis Research UK Epidemiology Unit at the University of Manchester, questioned 122 adolescents, aged 11 and over, about their underlying beliefs regarding their arthritis.

The children had all been diagnosed with inflammatory arthritis and were making their first visit to the paediatric rheumatology department.

Survey results showed that 27.1 per cent thought their arthritis was due to their genes, with 21.3 per cent blaming their immune system and 15.6 per cent listing accident or injury as the main cause of their joint problems.

A further 13.1 per cent thought their arthritis had been triggered by an infection, with other less commonly held beliefs about the underlying causes of arthritis including behaviours such as smoking or drinking alcohol, and psychological factors such as stress.

The findings could have important implications, as patients' beliefs about the causes of their illness can sometimes influence their adherence to treatment and ultimately their long-term outcomes.

Publishing their findings in the journal Rheumatology, the study authors claim that this is the first report on adolescents' beliefs about the cause of their arthritis.

The study "found the most common causal beliefs to be related to genes or the immune system", the researchers confirmed.

They added: "Brief assessments of adolescents' beliefs at presentation will enable providers to modify or adapt potentially unhelpful beliefs and provide age-appropriate information regarding arthritis."

The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Adolescent Rheumatology, a collaboration between the charity, Great Ormond Street Hospital, University College London and University College Hospital London, the world's first centre for adolescent rheumatology, launched last year.

Researchers at the £2.5 million centre aim to vastly increase knowledge of how rheumatic diseases such as JIA affect teenagers.