Loss of Income and Poverty Follows Arthritis


Developing arthritis increases the risk of falling into poverty, especially for women, a new study shows.

Arthritis can be associated with substantial economic loss due to extended unemployment and the cost of treatment.  And now, the first-known longitudinal study to follow men and women after they developed arthritis, shows that between 2007 and 2012, 24% of those who developed arthritis fell into poverty as compared to 14% of people in poverty without arthritis. The findings appear in the Sept. 8 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatology. The study is based on survey data of 300 adults between 2007 and 2012 for Australian adults.


  • Arthritis is a major cause of unemployment and poverty. Half of Australians with arthritis aged 45 to 64 are not in the labor force. 
  • In a random sample of Australians, 14% fell into poverty, but 24% of those who were diagnosed with arthritis fell into poverty, between 2007 and 2012. 
  • Arthritis is more likely to cause poverty among women than men. 


Source:  Arthritis & Rheumatology By some estimates, osteoarthritis alone accounts for between 1% and 2.5% of the gross domestic product of the United States and other industrial countries. The indirect economic costs associated with lost productivity and lower levels of labor force participation are larger than direct medical costs, the authors of the study reported. In Australia, for example, half of those with arthritis between 45 and 64 years old are not working. Another Australian study show that adults with arthritis who are not working, account for one-fifth of the income of their employed counterparts.  In this study, researchers looked beyond employment and income. They measured multidimensional poverty, according to the Freedom Poverty Measure, which is a more severe poverty.  [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"41333","attributes":{"alt":"©GongTo/Shuttersstock.com","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_8538201828487","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"4340","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 1.538em; float: right;","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The impact of arthritis is best captured by measuring quality of life, the researchers wrote. “Looking at the living standards of those with arthritis is important as the condition is generally associated with morbidity rather than mortality,” they wrote. Conducted by Emily Callander, PhD, and Deborah Schofield, PhD., of the University of Sydney, the study included 300 records of adults in 2007 who did not have arthritis, and were not in income poverty, who developed arthritis between 2007 and 2009. A comparison group had 3,943 records of people who never got arthritis.  Between 2007 and 2012, 24% of those who developed arthritis fell into income poverty as compared to 14% of those who never got arthritis.  Women were significantly more likely to fall into income poverty (18%) than males (16%). The hazard ratio for falling into income poverty for females who developed arthritis was 1.51 as compared to 1.22 for males, relative to those who never developed arthritis. The hazard ratio for falling into multidimensional poverty for females was 1.87 and 1.29 for males.  Poverty increased with age, and with remoteness of place of residence, and decreased with being in a relationship or owning a home. The pattern for multidimensional poverty was similar.  The analysis also showed that the risk is greatest in the one to three years following diagnosis. Previous studies have also shown a sharp decline in labor force participation after diagnosis with arthritis.  The study used the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, which is a representative sample, conducted since 2001, of Australians living in private dwellings aged 15 and over.  


Callander EJ, Schofield DJ.

Arthritis and the risk of falling into poverty: a survival analysis using Australian data. Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Online First September 8, 2015. doi: 10.1002/art.39277  

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