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21-05-2021 | Rheumatology | News | Article

COVID-19 impacts work-related anxiety in people with rheumatic diseases

Laura Cowen

medwireNews: A Danish survey of people with inflammatory rheumatic diseases (IRDs) has shown that one-fifth were worried about being in the work environment during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many more reporting other concerns.

The nationwide online survey, conducted by Bente Glintborg (University of Copenhagen) and colleagues during October and November 2020, looked at the impact of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on the current work situation and related concerns in 14,758 patients with IRD routinely followed in the Danish DANBIO registry.

Of these, 40% were working (60% full time, 31% part time, 9% self-employed) at the time of the survey, while 61% were female. A total of 53% had rheumatoid arthritis, 20% had axial spondyloarthritis, 19% had psoriatic arthritis, and 9% had other IRDs. The median age of the participants was 55 years.

Among the respondents who were currently working, 69% said that their workplace had assisted in making arrangements for them to safely carry out their job, but 47% found it difficult (completely or mostly agree) to keep physical distance at work and 20% were concerned about being in the work environment.

Nearly all (94%) of the participants who were concerned about the work environment answered that they found it important to keep physical distance at work. However, three-quarters of this group said they found it difficult to maintain physical distancing at work even though 63% felt that their employer had made necessary interventions for them to safely carry out their job.

The majority (75%) of those concerned about the work environment also said they feared that their IRD increased their risk for COVID-19 infection at work to more than that of similar aged people, and 85% believed they should take more precautions to avoid infection than their peers.

Multivariable analyses revealed that health-related quality of life had the greatest impact on being concerned about being in the work environment, with people who scored below the median level on the EQ-5D questionnaire 2.71 times more likely to report these concerns than those with a higher score.

In addition, women were a significant 1.96 times more likely to be concerned about being in the work environment than men, while people with comorbidities were 1.37 times more likely to be concerned than those without.

Having higher educational level (further education for ≥2 years) and being treated with biologic DMARDS conferred 1.34- and 1.46-fold increased likelihoods for concerns about being at work, respectively.

“In accordance with others, our study confirms high anxiety levels related to the work situation, mainly in women, persons with poor health conditions and persons with higher education,” write Glintborg and co-authors in RMD Open.

They add: “In the light of the ongoing pandemic and future waves, continuous awareness of the difficult balance between social distancing and work obligations is important.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2021 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

21 May 2021: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

RMD Open 2021; 7: e001649

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