Effect of Arthritis on Employment Varies Among Socioeconomic Groups

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We found that the typical person living with arthritis in the UK is 20% less likely to be in work than a person of a similar age, gender, level of education and ethnicity who does not have the condition.

One of the most striking findings was that non-university educated women aged 60-plus are at least 37% less likely to be in work if they have arthritis, compared to matched individuals without the condition.

Overall, the study shows that as people with arthritis reach middle age, their likelihood of being in work diminishes at a faster rate than those who do not have the condition. Many of these people will have taken early retirement. This effect is more pronounced in general for people without a university-level education, possibly as symptoms may be easier to manage in professional jobs than manual roles.  And once both men and women reach 60, their chances of being in work when living with arthritis are markedly more reduced when compared to people without the condition.

Additionally, the study shows that people who had a history of working in routine (such as lorry drivers or bar staff) and intermediate (such as paramedics or bank staff) occupational groups were also much less likely to be in work if they had arthritis.  Among people living with arthritis, those with a history of working at small private companies were also generally less likely to be in work than people with arthritis who had worked in larger companies or in the public sector. The team’s discussions with people living with arthritis indicated that this might be due to smaller firms having fewer resources available, or less scope for them to adjust work patterns or take on alternative roles.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Lead author Dr Nasir Rajah or the University of Leeds said: “We already know that arthritis is more common amongst women and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Our new findings show that substantial inequalities also exist in terms of how the work outcomes of these groups are affected by arthritis.

“Government and employers should consider how interventions in workplaces could better support people living with arthritis and improve their health and employment prospects, whilst also potentially tackling inequalities and address the need to support people in their 50s and 60s to stay in work for longer if they want to.

“Given the increasing prevalence of arthritis and the trend towards older retirement ages, this need for better support represents a substantial and growing challenge for society.”

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Dr Edward Webb, Economist at the University of Leeds, said:  “We’ve got evidence about what effect arthritis has on objective outcomes, such as whether people have a job or not, or whether they work full or part-time, but we don’t know how these changes affect people’s wellbeing.

“The next steps in terms of future research should be looking at wellbeing, since that’s what really matters. Wellbeing is also vital for knowing who is most in need of support, and what kind of support they need. For example, for some people, an arthritis diagnosis might change their priorities. Their decision to leave the labour market could be positive: an opportunity to spend more time with family or other interests including leisure activities or voluntary work, for example. On the other hand, just because people with arthritis do keep working doesn’t mean they don’t need support. They might be really struggling in their job, and only keep going because they have to.”

Nasir Rajah, Edward J. Webb, Claire Hulme, Sarah R. Kingsbury, Robert West, Adam Martin,
How does arthritis affect employment? Longitudinal evidence on 18,000 British adults with arthritis compared to matched controls,Social Science & Medicine, 2023,115606,ISSN 0277-9536,


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Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by PainRelief.com