September 17, 2007

Study Indicates Significant Work Loss Associated With Lupus

Recent research on work loss associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), funded in part by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, estimated that almost three-quarters of the study’s 982 participants would stop working before the usual age of retirement, and that half of those who had jobs when they were diagnosed (during their mid-30s, on average) would no longer be working by the age of 50.

This research, led by Edward Yelin, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, involved people between ages 18 and 64. In addition to evaluating work loss by age/time frames, the scientists examined risk factors for job loss, including:
  • demographics (age, sex and education)
  • socioeconomic status
  • disease status
  • general health
  • functional status (how well the individual is able to function and carry on typical daily activities)
  • mental/cognitive status
  • health care use
  • employment information.
They determined that demographics and work characteristics (the physical and psychological demands of jobs and the degree of control over assignments and work environment) had the most impact on work loss.

Two data-analysis tools (the Kaplan-Meier method and the Cox model) allowed scientists to study data collected over two years and to reliably estimate long-term patterns of work loss. The long-term estimates were calculated using information from patient medical history, as well as data from baseline interviews with each study participant and follow-up interviews one year later. The scientists are planning a subsequent study that will correlate specific lupus manifestations to their impact on changes in employment.

Among studies of the work dynamics of people with lupus, this research is considered to have the largest and most diverse study population to date. The authors believe the results are therefore more statistically precise and more representative of lupus patients than the results of previous studies.

The State of California Lupus Fund, the Arthritis Foundation, the American College of Rheumatology/Research and Education Foundation, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also supported this study.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.

For more information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at 301-495-4484 or 877-22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS website at

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