To assess work productivity (WP) loss during the first 3 years of disease in a cohort of patients with early arthritis (EA) diagnosed between 2002 and 2005.


The ESPOIR (Etude et Suivi des Polyarthrites Indifférenciées Récentes) cohort included 813 EA patients; we included those of working age at baseline in the present study. WP loss was assessed by 3 components: sick leave, permanent disability, and early retirement. The proportion of affected patients and the mean number of days off work were assessed for each component. WP costs were estimated and determinants of positive and extreme costs were assessed by logistic regression models.


Among the 664 patients included, 81.6% were in the workforce at baseline. During the first 3 years of disease, 45% reported at least 1 sick leave day and 11% reported permanent disability. Only a few patients (1%) reported early retirement. The mean number of days on sick leave due to EA decreased regularly from 44 to 13, whereas the mean number of days on permanent disability tripled from 10 to 33. The mean annual cost was 荤1,333 (95% confidence interval 荤1,075–1,620). Sick leave longer than 30 days due to EA before inclusion and a decrease in mental and physical scores of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 at inclusion were independent determinants of positive and extreme costs in multivariate models.


WP loss is substantial in EA patients and is due to permanent disability before the third year of disease. Work absence and poor mental and physical health status at baseline are major determinants of WP costs.