Background Besides pain, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) mention fatigue as the most important complaint. Many RA patients experience fatigue, which may be caused by their disease. However, many people in the general population are also fatigued; it is unclear whether fatigue indeed is more severe in RA patients than in the general population. Fatigue may be related to the level of physical activity (PA); while RA patients may be less physically active compared to the general population, it is useful to estimate the size of the “gap”.
Objectives 1) to compare the level of PA and the level of fatigue between RA patients and the general Dutch population and 2) to investigate the relation between the level of PA and fatigue in both groups.
Methods Data representative of the general Dutch population were obtained as part of the Nijmegen Biomedical Study (NBS) in 2012, a population-based survey among randomly selected inhabitants of the municipality of Nijmegen (n=3764). 740 RA patients across the Netherlands filled in an online survey in 2013 and 2014. Self-reported PA was assessed using the Short Questionnaire to Assess Health (SQUASH) Enhancing PA. This Dutch questionnaire contains questions about PA divided over four categories. Total amount of PA in minutes per week was calculated. Fatigue was assessed using the Dutch ‘Shortened fatigue questionnaire’ (SFQ), whereby a higher score indicates a more severe level of fatigue.
Results RA patients on average had 1642±1167 (Mean ± SD) minutes of PA per week which was lower (p<0.001) than the general population with 2079±1364 (Mean ± SD) minutes per week, also in all four categories of activities (p<0.05). In comparison with the general Dutch population, RA patients had a higher fatigue level (p<0.001), with median (IQR) SFQ scores of 9 (6-15) and 16 (11-22) respectively. Corrected for gender, age and BMI, partial correlation established a significant negative relationship between fatigue as independent variable and PA as dependent variable in RA patients (r=-0.174, p<0.001) as well as in the general Dutch population (r=-0.074, p<0.001).
Conclusions In comparison with the general Dutch population, RA patients showed higher levels of fatigue and were less physically active; less PA was associated with a higher level of fatigue, and this association was more than twice as strong in RA patients compared with the general Dutch population.
Disclosure of Interest None declared