Arthritis and employment: An examination of behavioral coping efforts to manage workplace activity limitations

Monique A. Gignac

Arthritis & Rheumatism (Arthritis Care & Research) 2005; 53(3): 328 –336

Published: June 2005


Objective. To examine ways in which individuals with arthritis manage their employment and health by focusing on the type and determinants of diverse behavioral coping strategies used to manage activity limitations, and to examine the relationship between coping behaviors and participation in employment.

Methods. The study group comprised 492 patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. All participants were employed, and all participants were administered an in-depth, structured questionnaire. The study used an inductive approach and distinguished among 4 categories of coping behaviors as follows: adjustments to time spent on activities; receipt of help; modification of behaviors; and anticipatory coping.

Results. Fewer coping behaviors were reported at the workplace than outside of the workplace. Anticipatory coping was used most often in the workplace. Workplace activity limitations were related to increased reports of all types of coping. Women, those with more joints affected, and people expecting to remain employed reported more anticipatory coping. Expectations of continued employment were also related to modifications of activities, as was longer disease duration and discussing arthritis with one’s employer. Help from others was associated with talking to an employer and positive job perceptions. Compared with work, reports of a greater number of coping behaviors used at home were associated with changes in overall work participation (e.g., absenteeism).

Conclusion. These results expand our understanding of the experience of having a chronic illness and working and highlight the ways in which people accommodate to workplace limitations by using a variety of different behavioral coping efforts to remain employed.