Work is a Factor in Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis

February 23, 2011

Finnish researchers have discovered connections between rheumatoid arthritis and certain work occupations.

Finnish researchers have discovered connections between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and certain work occupations.

The study was performed by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the University of Helsinki, and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (KELA). It examined Finnish citizens between the ages of 15 and 64 who had been approved the “special right for compensation” from KELA for rheumatoid arthritis medicine from the years 1971 to 2000.

Workers in the following fields were found to be at higher risk of the disease than any other occupations studied: mining, transportation, agriculture, forestry, and gardening industries.

Animal husbandry is tied very strongly to the development of RA, while grain growing seems to have less of an impact.

Roughly 1,700 adults in Finland report developing RA each year.

Overall, 35,000 Finnish residents who have rheumatoid arthritis are of working age, and half of these sufferers have been forced to quit their jobs.

Another finding in the study was that women suffer from RA more often than men, at a percentage as high as twice as often in regions residing in the north-east and north-west of Finland.

“Some of the regional variation can be explained by economic structures,” explained senior researcher Riitta-Sisko Koskela from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

By this, Koskela is referring to the fact that agriculture and forestry are an important industry in the provinces of Kainuu and South Savo, where inhabitants develop RA more frequently than other regions. Residents of Karelia also proved to have a high frequency rate of RA.

The results of the study may prove to have a profound impact on the working industry across the globe, but most specifically Finland itself. Koskela expressed concern that these results be used to help people better understand RA and its effects and causes.

One way would be to improve the work conditions in the high-risk industries; many of them have qualities in common, such as humid, cold, or dusty environments.

“Rheumatic arthritis is an illness caused by many factors,” said Koskela. “I hope that occupational health care puts these research findings to good use.”