Background There is relatively little data on the emotional impact of RA on the individual as well as the impact on the wider family and principal carer usually the spouse. It is this area that The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society wished to explore in greater depth. Following a focus group with partners in 2011 NRAS conducted an online questionnaire of family members including partners and spouses but also parents and adult children of people living with RA. This then highlighted the need for further research into the impact on close and intimate relationships for people living with RA.
Objectives To analyse the impact of RA on close relationships
Methods An independent communications specialist, experienced in the fields of health and care, was commissioned to work with NRAS to carry out two national surveys one for family members in Spring 2012 followed by a second survey of people with RA themselves in Winter 2012. The communications specialist worked in partnership with a psychotherapist to co- host 3 focus groups in autumn 2012 to guide the design of the2nd online questionnaire. The request for people to participate in the “Emotions and Relationships” survey was circulated via social media Facebook, NRAS online forum, NRAS Health Unlocked blogging site as well as NRAS enews bulletins and website.
Results The family survey resulted in 392 usable responses followed by a staggering 1343 completed relationships survey questionnaires. Key findings from both surveys were: 41% of partners reported having difficulties in their relationships and 67% of partners reporting a negative impact on their sex life as a result of their partners RA. 46% of those living with RA reported not being happy with their sex life. Single people in the survey reported they believe that having RA puts people off having a relationship with them. 94% of people with RA described feeling “frustrated” and 80% said they feel or have felt “anxious” about their RA.
Conclusions A new NRAS publication as well as an NRAS online resource is due to be developed to help health professionals to be in a better position to help the individual with RA and their family by utilising these new resources in addressing the issues that people, their partners and their families face.
Acknowledgements Kate Wilkinson & Sarah Collins
Disclosure of Interest None Declared