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Keywords:

  • Socioeconomic status;
  • Physical function;
  • Pain;
  • Depressive symptoms

Abstract

Objective. To examine the role of socioeconomic status (SES) in physical functioning, pain, and depressive symptoms among newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients with severe disease.

Methods. Data are from 118 non-Hispanic patients of European origin at baseline of a longitudinal study of early, severe RA. Outcome measures were the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) functional disability index, the HAQ visual analog pain scale, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted using a health status block (disease activity and comorbidities), a non-SES related social structure block (age, sex, and Lubben Social Network Scale), and indicators of SES (income and education).

Results. Non-SES related social structure and SES were important independent determinants of functional disability and depressive symptoms, but both they and the health status variables were unrelated to pain. Further, neither income nor education was related to disease activity or comorbidities.

Conclusion. It cannot be argued from these data that poorer health status explains the link between SES and disability and depressive symptoms. Although, at baseline, the psychosocial effects of early RA are more severe for those with lower SES, the disease does not appear to be more severe. It may be that the biologic impact of status differentials will become clearer as the effects of treatment and the course of the disease unfold over time.