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Arthritis-related work outcomes experienced by younger to middle-aged adults: a systematic review
  1. Danielle Berkovic1,
  2. Andrew M Briggs2,2,
  3. Darshini Ayton1,
  4. Catriona Parker1,
  5. Ilana Ackerman1
  1. 1 School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ilana Ackerman, Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia; Ilana.Ackerman{at}


Objective The aim of this review was to systematically identify, appraise and synthesise evidence on work-related outcomes experienced by younger to middle-aged adults (aged 16–50 years) with arthritis.

Methods Eligible studies were identified in Medline, PsycINFO, Embase and CINAHL in January 2020. Quantitative and qualitative studies containing self-reported data on work-related outcomes on younger/middle-aged adults with arthritis were included. Quality assessment was undertaken using validated quality appraisal tools from the Joanna Briggs Institute.

Results Thirty-four studies were identified for inclusion. Work outcomes were organised around five themes: (1) arthritis-related work productivity outcomes, (2) arthritis-related work participation outcomes, (3) other arthritis-related workplace outcomes, (4) barriers to work participation associated with arthritis and (5) enablers to work participation associated with arthritis. Arthritis was associated with work limitations on the Workplace Activity Limitations Scale (average scores ranging from 5.9 (indicating moderate workplace difficulty) to 9.8 (considerable workplace difficulty)), and higher work disability prevalence rates (range: 6%–80%) relative to healthy populations. Arthritis was not associated with decreased absenteeism on the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire (mean (SD) 7.9% (14.0%)), indicating low levels of absenteeism, similar to healthy populations. As work outcomes were commonly binary, person-centred (qualitative) perspectives on barriers and enablers augmented the quantitative findings.

Conclusion Arthritis is commonly associated with poorer work outcomes for younger/middle-aged adults relative to healthy populations. Additional research focusing solely on the workplace needs of younger/middle-aged population groups is required to inform tailored interventions and workplace support initiatives to maximise productive working years.

  • musculoskeletal
  • public health
  • occupational health practice

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  • Contributors DB, AMB and IA contributed to the development of the search strategy. DB and CP conducted screening and data extraction. DB prepared the methods, results and discussion. AMB, DA and IA contributed substantially to the results and discussion. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding DB received a PhD scholarship from Musculoskeletal Australia to conduct this research (PURE ID #230581862). AMB was supported by a fellowship from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (#1132548). INA was supported by a Victorian Health and Medical Research Fellowship from the Victorian Government.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.