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Arthritis Rheum. 2009 Mar 15;61(3):378-85. doi: 10.1002/art.24347.

Work disability in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Toronto Western Hospital of the University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



To determine the prevalence, accrual over time, and risk factors of work disability in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


We studied 432 patients from an inception cohort. Work disability was measured from a single self-report question. Data were prospectively collected and included sociodemographic information, clinical lupus features including activity (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index 2000 update [SLEDAI-2K]), damage (Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/American College of Rheumatology Damage Index), and organ involvement, as well as health status (Short Form 36 [SF-36]), comorbidity, and medication use. Student's t-test and Wilcoxon's rank sum test were used to compare continuous variables and chi-square tests were used for dichotomous variables. Descriptive survival curves of time to work disability were presented. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions were used to describe the relationships between clinically relevant factors and work disability.


Of 432 patients, 88% were women and 73% were white. Within the first year of diagnosis, 47% of patients were employed, 7% had a disability, and 7% were on sick leave. Overall, work disability was found in 98 (23%) patients. Risk factors for work disability found in the multivariate regression analysis were younger age at diagnosis, less education, fibromyalgia, hypertension, higher first-visit SLEDAI-2K score, and lower first-visit SF-36 score.


Work disability is frequent in patients with SLE, with a cumulative prevalence of 23%. Work disability was associated with a complex array of health factors, including comorbidity, physical and mental health limitations, and clinical features of lupus, that warrant increased attention in future research.

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