Examination of arthritis‐related work place activity limitations and intermittent disability over four‐and‐a‐half years and its relationship to job modifications and outcomes

Monique A. M. Gignac, Xingshan Cao, Kenneth Tang, Dorcas E. Beaton

Arthritis Care & Research 2011; 63(7):953–962


Published: July 2011


Objective. To examine the type, degree, and episodic nature of arthritis-related work place activity limitations and the consistency of the relationship of activity limitations to job modifications and work place outcomes.

Methods. Using an interviewer-administered structured questionnaire, individuals with osteoarthritis (OA) or inflammatory arthritis (IA) were interviewed at 4 time points, 18 months apart. At baseline, all participants (n 490; 381 women, 109 men) were employed. Respondents were recruited using community advertising and from rheumatology and rehabilitation clinics. The Workplace Activity Limitations Scale (WALS) assessed arthritis-related disability with job tasks. Job modifications/accommodations (e.g., scheduling changes), work place outcomes (e.g., absenteeism), demographics, illness, and work context were also measured. Repeated cross-sectional logistic regressions examined levels of WALS disability with job modifications and outcomes at each time point.

Results. Similar levels of activity limitations were found comparing OA and IA with fewer difficulties with global aspects of work (e.g., scheduling) than with specific tasks (e.g., working with hands). Three-quarters of the participants had episodic or intermittent WALS difficulty over time. Medium and high levels of work place activity limitations were significantly associated with job modifications, and high WALS difficulty was consistently related to negative work outcomes.

Conclusion. Many individuals with arthritis report some difficulty with work place activities. However, these difficulties are often intermittent and may not result in changes to work productivity until they are consistently high. This is important for designing work place interventions and for employers, insurers, and the government to understand to avoid viewing individuals with arthritis as a permanent drain on work place and health resources.