Objectives: Evidence suggests that factors beyond disease activity associate with functional disability in Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). The primary study objective was to explore associations between comorbidities, sociodemographic factors and functional outcomes at five and 10 years.
Methods: RA patients from two UK prospective cohorts were grouped into low (<1.5) and high (≥1.5) five- and 10-year health assessment questionnaire (HAQ) score. Clinical variables (e.g. disease activity, rheumatoid nodules, erosions) and sociodemographic factors (e.g. ethnicity, deprivation) were recorded at baseline and yearly thereafter. Comorbidity was measured using the Rheumatic Diseases Comorbidity Index (RDCI). Binary logistic regression models were fitted using multiple imputation.
Results: In total, 2,701 RA patients were recruited (mean age 56.1 years, 66.9% female). 1,718 (63.4%) had five-year and 820 (30.4%) 10-year follow-up data. In multivariable analysis, no association was found between RDCI and HAQ ≥ 1.5 at five or 10 years. Sociodemographic factors (increased age at disease onset, female gender, minority ethnicity) were associated with higher odds of HAQ ≥ 1.5 at five and 10 years, with worse deprivation additionally associated with HAQ ≥ 1.5 at 10 years (OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.69–0.90).
Conclusion: Comorbidities at baseline have not been found to be associated with worse RA functional outcome in the long-term. On the other hand, sociodemographic factors, independently of disease measures, are associated with worse functional outcome in RA at five and 10 years, in models adjusting for comorbidity burden. Tailoring management interventions according to not only clinical disease parameters but also patient sociodemographic factors, may improve long-term outcomes including functional disability.