OBJECTIVE--To investigate the impact of sociodemographic factors on the outcome of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). METHODS--A group of 138 women with RA of recent onset and a mean duration of follow up of 5.8 years was studied. Additional information on sociodemographic variables at disease onset (level of formal education, marital status and employment status) was related to the initial disease severity and various outcome measures. RESULTS--Patients with lower levels of education showed a trend towards a worse outcome, according to Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score, erosion score and the patient's and physician's assessment of outcome at the last visit. However, we also found a trend towards an association between lower levels of education and more severe disease at onset, as measured by HAQ score, erosion score and the number of painful and swollen joints. The association between lower levels of education and poorer outcome of RA was weakened after correction for the initial disease severity. Results of other sociodemographic variables were equivocal. CONCLUSIONS--Differences in severity of RA between patients with different levels of education develop or are present in the early stages of the disease.
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