Session Title: Education/Community Programs
Session Type: Abstract Submissions (ARHP)
Background/Purpose: Understanding the employment experience and needs of people with arthritis is growing in importance as baby boomers make up an increasing proportion of the workforce. This study examined the impact of arthritis on employment with an emphasis on 1) at-work productivity and absenteeism and 2) benefits, treatment, workplace practices and policies that might help sustain employment.
Methods: In September 2012 The Arthritis Society, Canada, commissioned a survey research organization with expertise in large panel designs to carry out an online, national survey of adult Canadians with arthritis. Questions asked about demographic factors, arthritis diagnosis, work status, and for those who were working, benefits, workplace policies and accommodations available, disclosure of health to employers, and the perceived impact of arthritis treatment at work.
Results: 1057 individuals were surveyed (mean age 57 years, 69% women, inflammatory arthritis (IA) = 414, osteoarthritis (OA) = 351, other = 292). 10.4% were on disability leave and 41.7% of respondents reported working in the past week (<54 years 62.2%, 55-64 years 38.0%, 65+ 16.4%) of whom 2/3 reported no productivity losses in the past week, and 80% had missed no time from work in the past month. Nevertheless, 66% of participants reported going to work even when they felt unwell because of their arthritis, 41% reported difficulty managing symptoms and their jobs, 41% said arthritis make it difficult to carry out work responsibilities or to travel to and from work (30%). Slightly more people with IA than OA reported difficulties, but there were few age differences. 83% of those currently employed had at least one workplace benefit, including health benefits or insurance (63%), flexible working hours (34%), or ability to work from home (30%). 46% had not told their supervisor about their arthritis – mainly because they felt their symptoms were under control or there was no point because nothing could be done to improve their situation. Among those who had disclosed, only 37% had discussed ways to better manage working with arthritis (17.4% of all workers). Among those employed 57% (more with OA than IA) reported that treatment (including prescription medication) did not have a positive impact on their work life. Overall 37% of respondents reported that challenges in accessing treatment (including physical and occupational therapy or massage therapy) had an impact on work –including having to leave the workforce, reduce work hours, or modify job responsibilities.
Conclusion: Although arthritis often did not affect productivity or work attendance, many experienced some difficulty managing both their arthritis and their jobs. There were few age differences and many similarities between IA and OA. Giving the aging workforce it is positive that older workers were not more likely to miss time from work or be less productive than younger workers, and a significant minority were employed after the age of 65. However the lack of disclosure and discussion of better ways to manage arthritis and work, and challenges in accessing therapy are concerning and point to the need for proactive initiatives to help sustain employment and to work well.
M. A. Gignac,
E. M. Badley,
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ACR Meeting Abstracts - https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/the-employment-experience-of-people-with-arthritis-findings-from-an-on-line-survey/