A new study published online on Sept. 8 in Arthritis & Rheumatology found patients who developed arthritis saw their incomes decline substantially.1
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Based on data from a longitudinal survey of 4,000 Australian adults 21 years and older, “Arthritis and the risk of falling into poverty: A survival analysis using Australian data” found females with arthritis were 51% more likely to fall into poverty, while males were 22% more likely. The results also show women (87%) were more likely than men (29%) to fall into what authors describe as “multidimensional poverty,” which includes income, health and education attainment.
“The results confirm prior studies that utilized cross-sectional data,” says lead author Emily Callander, PhD, a research fellow in the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Sydney, Australia. “This has been the first [study] to show that arthritis diagnosis came first and income poverty came second.”
Dr. Callander, who specializes in measuring the impact of chronic disease on patients’ and their families’ living standards, says the study confirms arthritis is an overlooked driver of poverty. She suggests rheumatologists consider their patients’ ability to pay for out-of-pocket costs when determining treatments and help patients “manage their condition so that they can remain in employment.”
She says, “I would hope all clinicians are aware of how much it actually costs their clients to undergo the treatment they recommend, and for people with particularly low incomes, the reality that the affordability of a treatment option may be the difference between undertaking treatment or not. Good communication about out-of-pocket costs and ability to pay between patient and practitioner should be a part of consultations.”
Citing aging populations in many countries, Dr. Callander says the study results place a premium on policy decisions.
“Given the high risk of falling into poverty after being diagnosed with arthritis, it may be that a high proportion of income poverty cases in the future can be attributed to arthritis,” she explains. “As such, the prevention of arthritis and successfully treating people who do have arthritis becomes a priority, not only for health departments, but also for Social Security departments that are responsible for national living standards.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.
- Callander EJ, Schofield DJ. Arthritis and the risk of falling into poverty: A survival analysis using Australian data. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2015 Sep 8. doi: 10.1002/art.39277.