Seminar Presentation 7-4

7-4 (Presentation within Topical Seminar 7):
Measuring arthritis work disability outcomes across the life course: An integral research direction

Presented by: Dorcas Beaton


Beaton D1,2

  1. Mobility Program, Clinical Research Unit, St. Michaels Hospital
  2. Institute for Work and Health, Toronto, ON, Canada



It is said that if you don’t measure it you don’t see it. As discussed previously, employment and work productivity of young-, middle- and older-aged adults with arthritis is the main societal role for people with arthritis. Understanding the best work outcome measures is an integral direction for arthritis research and clinical practice. This presentation reviews a body of research being conducted to understand approaches to measuring arthritis work outcomes.


Systematic reviews of the literature were conducted to uncover available instruments for capturing at work productivity loss and work absence. The instruments discovered (n > 20) were reviewed for face value and suitability for arthritis. Based on an initial evaluation, a shorter list of set of seven instruments was developed. Evidence of measurement properties was sought, and where absent, new projects begun to create this knowledge base. Finally, contextual factors were considered to get an accurate estimate of productivity.


Over 25 measures of at-work productivity loss were identified as well as several indicators of work absence. Some measures focused on ability/difficulties experienced at work, while as others focused on the amount of lost time. A subset appeared to have stronger measurement properties including the multi-item scales of the Workplace Activity Limitations Scale and Work Limitations Questionnaire. Single item indices were also attractive options but had less precision for inclusion in large burdensome trials. Though single items were only moderately correlated with the multi-item scales, the reliability was acceptable and they exhibited construct validity. Contextual factors like job demands, work pace or scheduling flexibility were found to be important moderators of work productivity. Few measures were compared at different life phases and instead were administered to general adult samples with arthritis ( > 18 years of age).


Several work productivity measures had merit. A limitation of existing measures is an understanding of whether their properties differ based on a person’s life and career phase. In order to expand research of arthritis work disability, work outcomes should be examined through a life course perspective and compared between young-, middle- and older-aged workers.