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Musculoskeletal Care. 2010 Mar;8(1):46-54. doi: 10.1002/msc.165.

'Your whole life, your whole world, it changes': partners' experiences of living with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Centre for Appearance Research, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, BS16 1 QY, UK.



Research suggests that rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can have a negative psychosocial impact on partners, as well as patients. However, until now there has been very little in-depth qualitative research in this area. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of partners of people with RA.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a heterogeneous sample of eight partners of people with RA (six men, two women, age range 48-73 years). Transcripts were analysed thematically.


Five overarching themes emerged: psychological burden in partners was substantial, as they experienced frustration and distress at watching their partner suffer and tried to protect their spouse from emotional and physical distress. 'It's a restricted life': partners reported having to cut back on previously enjoyable shared activities and had difficulty making future plans. Adjusting lives: partners had to make considerable adjustments to many aspects of their lives, and had adopted practical and psychological ways to cope. 'It's a joint approach': many partners discussed adopting a joint approach to managing the RA. Met and unmet support needs varied considerably, and many partners felt that a joint approach to treatment taken by health professionals is needed, which involves and recognizes their role.


Partners of people with RA are vital to the patients' disease management, but the data show that many carry a substantial psychosocial burden. Healthcare professionals should be aware of this, so that couples coping with RA can be better supported.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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