Arthritis & Rheumatism, Volume 62,
November 2010 Abstract Supplement

Abstracts of the American College of
Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals
Annual Scientific Meeting
Atlanta, Georgia November 6-11, 2010.

Arthritis and Labor Force Attachment among Working-Age Australians.

A. Theis,  Kristina, Busija,  Lucy, Wilkie,  Ross, Elsworth,  Gerald, H. Osborne,  Richard


The impact of arthritis on employment is well-documented in many countries; however, little is known about its extent in working-age (18–64 years) adults in Australia. The aim of this study is to estimate the prevalence of arthritis and explore its links with age, gender, and labor force attachment in working-age Australians.


Data were obtained from the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), a nationally representative survey of community-dwelling adults, with data collected by in-person interview and supplemented by a self-complete questionnaire. Data presented here are cross-sectional findings from HILDA 2007, the most recent time period in which arthritis status was ascertained. Participants reported an arthritis diagnosis by identifying arthritis from a list of conditions following: "Have you ever been told by a doctor or nurse that you have any of the long-term health conditions listed below?" Analysis was restricted to those with known arthritis status (n = 10,940) to estimate arthritis prevalence and the links with age, gender, and labor force attachment (categorized as employed, unemployed (actively seeking employment), or not in the labor force (all other dispositions, including discouraged job seekers). Weighted point estimates and 95% confidence intervals [95% CI], accounting for the complex survey design, were calculated for working-age adults overall and by age group (18–44 or 45–64 years) and sex.


Arthritis affects 14.9%[95% CI 13.8–15.9] of working-age adults in Australia (1.6 million people) and was significantly greater in women (17.5%[16.1–19.0]) compared with men (12.1%[10.8–13.3]. Overall, employment was statistically significantly lower in those with arthritis compared to those without arthritis (57.7%[53.8–61.5] vs. 80.2%[78.9–81.5]). The same pattern of statistically significantly lower employment for those with arthritis vs. no arthritis holds for men (59.8%[53.9–65.8] vs. 86.8%[85.3–88.2]), women (56.2%[51.6–60.8] vs. 73.5%[71.6–75.3]), and both age groups. But the arthritis vs. no arthritis employment gap was much narrower for younger adults (70.9% vs. 81.6%) than for those in the older age group (54.5% vs. 77.5%). More than twice the prevalence of working-age adults with arthritis were not in the labor force compared to those without arthritis (40.6%[36.7–44.5] vs. 17.0%[15.9–18.2]). Unemployment was low and not significantly different between working-age Australians with and without arthritis.


Arthritis is common among working-age Australians, affecting approximately 1 in 7 potential workers. Employment is substantially lower among those with arthritis compared to those without for men and women and across age groups; however, the increase in employment gap between the older versus younger age group suggests that employment is a greater challenge for individuals in middle age. Also, despite lower arthritis prevalence overall, men with arthritis appear to be more affected than women by low employment participation. The application of policy and public health interventions in combination may be needed to reduce the impact of arthritis on employment.

To cite this abstract, please use the following information:
A. Theis, Kristina, Busija, Lucy, Wilkie, Ross, Elsworth, Gerald, H. Osborne, Richard; Arthritis and Labor Force Attachment among Working-Age Australians. [abstract]. Arthritis Rheum 2010;62 Suppl 10 :2139
DOI: 10.1002/art.29903

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