To compare Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) scores of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with HAQ scores from a sex- and age-adjusted population.


Patients with RA (n = 1,095) and control subjects (n = 1,530) completed a mailed questionnaire that comprised the HAQ, pain and global health scores, education level, and comorbidities, as well as height, weight, and lifestyle attitudes, including smoking and exercise habits.


The HAQ scores increased (indicating declining function) with older age in patients and controls. The HAQ scores were above the reference values (>95th percentile of the HAQ scores of the age- and sex-matched population) in 17–45% of women with RA and in 7–32% of men with RA ages 30–79 years, while the HAQ scores of the patients ≥80 years were similar to those of the age- and sex-matched population. In a logistic regression model, the odds ratio for disability (HAQ score ≥1; at least some difficulties in most activities of daily living) was 7.7 (95% confidence interval 5.3–11.1; P < 0.001) among patients with RA compared with community controls, when adjusted for age, sex, education, smoking, exercise, body mass index, number of comorbidities, and pain.


RA is associated with a >7-fold risk of disability compared with that in a general population of adults in the same community. The impact of disability due to RA appears to be greater in younger and middle-age people than in elderly patients.