• rheumatoid arthritis;
  • income;
  • health economics


Background:  The aim of this study was to estimate the effect of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on the personal income of a cohort of individuals with RA in Australia.

Methods:  A cross-sectional study of a sample of 497 working age people with RA in Adelaide, South Australia was carried out.

Results:  The average personal income of an individual with RA in our cohort in 2003–2004 was $A22 400 compared with the Australian mean annual income of $A38 000. When standardized, the income of our cohort was 66% that of the average income of the Australian population. Overall one-third of the RA cohort relied principally on the social security system for their income and more than 75% of the cohort estimated they had lost greater than $A10 000 per annum in personal income as a result of their disease. Individuals with RA who were not working had annual incomes on average of more than $A20 000 less than those who continued to work.

Conclusion:  The personal income loss associated with RA in Australia is of enormous significance. It reduces a large population of individuals to relative financial poverty and potentially limits their access to a range of services including private health services.