Social Comparison Among Individuals With Rheumatoid Arthritis1


  • 1

    This article was based in part on a dissertation submitted by the first author to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral degree. It was supported in part by an Arthritis Health Professions Traineeship to Susan Blalock, in part by a University of North Carolina Research Council grant to Brenda DeVellis, and in part by the University of North Carolina Multipurpose Arthritis center, which is funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.

  • The authors would like to thank Jo Anne Earp, Suzanne Sauter, and Vaida Thompson for their contributions throughout various stages of the research. They also thank Lynda Anderson, Karl Bauman, Lynn Blanchard, Kathleen Harring, Kathleen Holt, Rick Hoyle, Kenneth McLeroy, and Richard Smith for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article and Regina Fleming for her assistance with data collection.

  • Portions of the results were presented at the 8th Annual Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the 22nd National Conference of the Arthritis Health Professions Association, and the 95th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Susan J. Blalock. Rehabilitation Program, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Trailer 33, Campus Box 7200, Chapel Hill, NC 27599–7200.


This study examined the types of social comparisons made by individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the role these comparisons play in illness adjustment. Seventy-five women with RA were interviewed. The interview included measures of social comparison preferences assessed within two different contexts: the establishment of standards for desired performance and the experience of performance difficulties. Perceived ability, satisfaction with ability, and psychological adjustment also were assessed. We found that when respondents were experiencing performance difficulties they compared more frequently with other RA patients than with individuals not affected by RA. However, when establishing standards for desired performance, the latter type of comparison was more common. Further, respondents' comparison preferences were not related to perceptions of ability, but were related to satisfaction with ability. Greater satisfaction was associated with comparison with individuals not affected by RA when establishing standards for desired performance and comparison with other RA patients when experiencing performance difficulties. Satisfaction, in turn, was positively related to psychological adjustment.