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New study highlights impact of ankylosing spondylitis on working people

Published on 30 May 2014
New study highlights impact of ankylosing spondylitis on working people

Developing ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can have a significant impact on a person's working capacity and habits, according to a new study.

AS is an inflammatory form of back pain that can also affect other parts of the body, including joints, tendons and eyes, and occurs most frequently in young men.

Research led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine saw a total of 311 employed AS patients completing a Work Limitations Questionnaire assessing sociodemographics, disease characteristics and work outcomes, including sick leave and presenteeism.

In results published in the journal Arthritis Research and Care, it was revealed that of those surveyed, 18 per cent of the group had taken sick leave in the past month.

When asked about the impact their AS had on their work, it was revealed that 33.7 per cent experienced limitations in meeting time management demands, 30.2 per cent suffered as a result of physical demands, 20.1 per cent had problems with mental-interpersonal demands and 19 per cent found it hard to maintain their output.

The average decrease in work productivity attributable to health was 6.3 per cent, with an extra 7.1 per cent of work hours needed to compensate for lost productivity. Meanwhile, feelings of helplessness, female gender and impaired health-related quality of life were major contributors to the level of presenteeism, the phenomenon of people continuing to work through their illness.

Other findings from the study showed that at-work limitations and a lower quality of life were significantly associated with probability of sick leave, while the length of sickness absence should be strongly correlated with a lower educational level, helplessness and, in some analytical models, with disease duration and country of residence.

The researchers concluded: "AS hinders patients' work mainly in time management and physical demand domains."

A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK, which funds research into ankylosing spondylitis, said that modern biological therapies such as anti-TNF therapy, developed originally by the charity's scientists to treat rheumatoid arthritis, were also highly effective in treating severe cases of ankylosing spondylitis.
"However, this study reveals that there are still people with AS whose condition is not adequately controlled, and who are still having to take time off work because of debilitating symptoms," he added.

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