University of Nottingham: Social deprivation may affect psychological health and make daily activities more challenging for people with osteoarthritis

Social deprivation, which can lead to impairments in memory and concentration, can make day-to-day activities, such as going shopping or doing housework, challenging for people with painful osteoarthritis.

Low educational attainment and increased anxiety may also make people with osteoarthritis more vulnerable to difficulties with performing daily activities, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports.

The findings of the research, led by experts from the Schools of Medicine and of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, suggest that addressing these socioeconomic and psychological factors early in the disease (at the time of diagnosis), could help to reduce functional disability and could improve quality of life in people with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the main and fastest growing cause of chronic pain worldwide. Individuals with painful osteoarthritis often seek medical help when their pain can no longer be controlled and starts to interfere with their ability to perform daily activities, such as going shopping or doing housework. Difficulty in performing daily activities contributes to poor quality of life in people with osteoarthritis.

The team of experts, led by Afroditi Kouraki from the School of Medicine, used data from nearly 1,000 people with newly diagnosed osteoarthritis, who were followed for seven years through the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) that covers 28 European countries.

A follow-up was carried out with participants every two years, where they answered questions about how they felt, their pain, their ability to perform everyday tasks, their education and their participation in everyday life, social activities and the quality of their neighbourhood. They also took part in tests to measure their cognitive ability, including tests of memory and concentration.

The team tested how socioeconomic factors (social deprivation and education) early in the disease, before the diagnosis of painful osteoarthritis, contributed to difficulties in performing daily activities after diagnosis and the role of psychological factors (anxiety and cognitive ability) that may influence this relationship.

In our study we found that social deprivation and low educational status are associated with increased functional disability in patients with painful osteoarthritis, and this may be mediated by poor cognitive ability and increased anxiety, respectively. “This suggests that improving cognitive ability and reducing anxiety early in the disease course might reduce the impact of socioeconomic factors on subsequent functional disability in people with painful osteoarthritis. “
Afroditi Kouraki from the School of Medicine

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