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Keywords:

  • Social support;
  • Support network;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Functional disability;
  • Distress

Abstract

Objective

To investigate whether greater social support and support network are cross-sectionally associated with less functional limitations and psychological distress in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis (RA); whether this association is constant over time; and whether increases in social support or support network are associated with less functional limitations and psychological distress.

Methods

Subjects were from the European Research on Incapacitating Diseases and Social Support cohort and had early RA. Social support, support network, functional limitations (Health Assessment Questionnaire), and psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire) were assessed annually. Variance and covariance analyses with repeated measures were performed.

Results

A total of 542 subjects were assessed for 3 years. On average, patients with a greater amount of specific social support or a stronger specific support network experienced less functional limitation and less psychological distress. Changes in a given subject's functional limitations and psychological distress did not depend on his or her baseline social support or support network. Neither social support nor support network change over time.

Conclusion

There may be a cross-sectional link between specific social support or support network and functional limitations and psychological distress, but no longitudinal association could be evidenced.