Arthritis May Shape Your Social Life

Arthritis symptoms may hinder physical activity which can impair social activities

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Arthritis symptoms can get in the way of many social activities, which can affect quality of life. So researchers wanted to know which aspects of arthritis most affected social life.

A recent study looked at which symptoms and patient factors might lead arthritis patients to miss out on social activities.

The researchers found that people who felt their social lives were restricted were 24 percent more likely to also report having trouble walking and standing.

The authors said that therapies to tackle physical limitations may help improve quality of life for people with arthritis.

"Ask a rheumatologist about ways to improve your quality of life."

Some recent studies have found that people with musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis, often report that social restrictions are more upsetting than the physical impairment. In other words, patients reported that their inability to shop or visit family and friends, for example, was more upsetting than symptoms like pain.

Researchers, led by K.A. Theis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studied the impact of arthritis on social function and to see which factors influenced restriction of social activities.

They used the National Health Interview Survey data from 2009. For the survey, people were interviewed in their homes about their symptoms, life and social function. A total of 6,696 participants had arthritis and were included in the analysis.

The researchers looked at survey answers and grouped them according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF).

ICF was developed by the World Health Organization. ICF uses categories of physical impairment, activity impairment and social participation impairment, and integrates that information with information about a particular health condition and the person’s environment.

Participants were asked about the difficulty of activities like shopping, going to sporting events and seeing movies. They were also asked how difficult it was to participate in social activities like visiting friends, attending clubs or meetings and attending parties.

People were considered to have social participation restriction if they responded to either of those questions with “very difficult” or “can’t do it all”.

Participants also rated their ability to walk, stand and sit and their level of pain. Additionally, they answered questions about household size, age, body weight, government assistance usage, income, level of education and sleep.

Results showed that 11 percent of adults with arthritis said their social participation was restricted by their arthritis.

Patients who reported social participation restriction were about 24 percent more likely to also report trouble walking, standing and carrying. Other factors that were linked to social participation, but to a lesser extent, included getting more than nine hours of sleep per night, having low income and having severe joint pain.

The authors concluded that social restriction impairs quality of life and that physical limitations, sleep and pain are related to social impairment.

They said, “By identifying the characteristics of adults with arthritis who are most likely to have social participation restriction, researchers can further refine the development and targeting of interventions that enhance quality-of-life and decrease disability and healthcare costs.”

This study was published February 11 in Arthritis Care & Research. Information on potential conflicts of interest and funding was not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 20, 2013
Last Updated:
February 25, 2013