Background Work disability is increasingly recognised as an important outcome of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The magnitude of work-disability in chronic disease is not only determined by socio-economic and disease characteristics but also by the organisation of the social security system of the country under study.
Objectives To determine the work disability levels of Lithuanian patients with RA.
Methods A cross-sectional study was performed including 276 consecutive out-patients, registered in the Vilnius RA register. During structured interviews, patients were asked about socio-demographic (including work-status) and disease characteristics. In addition, patients underwent a physical examination. The social security system in Lithuania distinguishes short-term disability (maximum 4 month) and long standing (permanent) disability. In case of longstanding disability three categories can be granted and two of these allow continuing a job.
Results Of the 276 RA patients, 82.2% were female, mean age was 58.9 yr (SD = 11.8) and mean disease duration 11.9 yr (SD = 9.4). Of 183 patients in working age (14–65 yr), 3.3% were unemployed or housewife, 7,1% were on early retirement and after adjusting for age and gender 28.3% had a paid job and 45.8% had a disability allowance. In general population of Lithuania employment rate is 54.5% and disability rate 2.33%. Of those with paid job 34.5% were holding at the same time a disability allowance. The Table 1 contrasts demographic and disease characteristics of those having a job to those having no job.
Conclusion In Lithuania, employment among RA patients is 26.2% lower than in the general population and seems lower than reported in literature on labour force participation among RA patients in other countries. Not suprisingly, patients who are more educated, less diabled and have shorter disease duration are more likely to remain in labour force, though disease activity is similar to those being not employed.
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