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Socioeconomic deprivation and rheumatoid disease: What lessons for the health service?
  1. ERAS Study Group*
  1. Dr A Young, Department of Rheumatology, St Albans City Hospital, Waverley Road, St Albans, Herts AL3 5PN, UK Email:Erasay{at}


OBJECTIVE To assess how socioeconomic deprivation influences the presentation, treatment, and outcome of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

METHODS Three year follow up of 869 consecutive patients with RA from nine hospital rheumatology clinics, with patients categorised by the Carstairs deprivation score of their enumeration district of residence. Outcomes included Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), joint and pain scores, grip strength, functional grade, radiological evidence of bony erosions, and medical/surgical interventions.

RESULTS Patients from more deprived enumeration districts presented with more severe disease as judged by the HAQ score and joint scores. An increase from the 5th to the 95th centile of the Carstairs distribution was associated with an odds ratio of 1.87 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.31 to 2.66) for an above-median HAQ score and 1.77 (95% CI 1.23 to 2.54) for an above-median joint score. Statistically non-significant deprivation trends were seen with erythrocyte sedimentation rate, pain score, and grip strength. By three years, despite no important differences in clinical management, socioeconomic differentials had worsened or remained unchanged such that clear deprivation trends were then seen in HAQ (p=0.002) and joint scores (p=0.001), in grip strength (p=0.008), and in functional grade (p=0.003). The association between deprivation and HAQ at three years was present after adjustment for age, sex, treatment centre, and HAQ at presentation (adjusted odds ratio 1.74, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.74).

CONCLUSIONS Socioeconomic deprivation was associated with a worse clinical course of rheumatoid disease, and this effect was already apparent at presentation, but not with systematic differentials in its treatment. This suggests that individual susceptibility and lifestyle factors contribute to socioeconomic differentials in outcome, an observation that has implications for clinical management.

  • rheumatoid disease
  • socioeconomic
  • outcome
  • function

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