/publications/issue/2005/2005-02/2005-02-9249

Work Surroundings Linked with Disability

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A few changes in work environments may reduce the risk of work disability for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A survey of 600 adults with RA found that certain work factors (ie, whether workers received ergonomic adjustments to their workstations and a difficult commute to work) were associated with the risk of work disability, according to preliminary research reported recently in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

The research showed that individuals whose personal work space was modified to make them more comfortable were 60% less apt to currently be away from work, compared with those who reported no workstation modifications. Adjustments included a change in position of a computer keyboard or a footstool added to an individual's desk area. Additionally, individuals who had trouble getting to work, including physical difficulty in doing so, were at a higher risk of work disability. The researchers defined work disability as at least 6 months away from work as a result of RA symptoms.

Self-employment was the strongest factor. The researchers found that the participants who were self-employed were 5 times less likely to report work disability, compared with survey respondents who were not self-employed.