How arthritis affects earnings over time


The project will investigate how labour market experiences differ for people with arthritis when compared to similar individuals without arthritis. In 2014, 30.8 million working days were lost to sickness due to musculoskeletal conditions. However, few studies have used individual-level data to study the relationship between arthritis and employment. The research team includes Dr Adam Martin, Dr Nasir Rajah, Professor Robert West, Professor Philip Conaghan, Professor Claire Hulme (University of Exeter), Dr Sarah Kingsbury and Dr Theresa Munyombwe.

The team will assess how individual-level earnings are affected by arthritis, how earnings trajectories evolve over the life course, and examine particular employment events and experiences that people face (including job loss, early retirement, an inability to find appropriate work, and a lack of career progression). The project will also provide an estimate of arthritis-attributable lost earnings to the whole economy. This research will use nationally representative data from Understanding Society and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). It will compare the earnings trajectories of at least 20,000 working-age people with arthritis to that of at least 40,000 people without arthritis.

The researchers will examine how these trajectories vary according to individual-level characteristics, such as gender, age, ethnicity, employment sector, family circumstances and comorbid health conditions. The team will harmonise the data into one large resource, which will be released for use in future research to assess statistical relationships between an arthritis diagnosis and various economic, social and psychological outcomes. The researchers will work with an advisory group including expert patients, academics, clinicians, charities, government organisations and employers. Throughout the project, ongoing findings will be released through social media and six-monthly interim reports. The final policy report will

summarise the main findings and give action points tailored to individuals, employers and government. For regular updates, please see @HealthAndWorkUK on Twitter.


The research will improve understanding of the impact of arthritis and its role in exacerbating inequalities. It will provide a monetary estimate of the arthritis-attributable loss in earnings both to individuals with arthritis, and across the whole UK economy.

This could provide fresh impetus for investment in (government and workplace) interventions for improving management, treatment and prevention. It will also support decisions about targeting such interventions during particular life stages and amongst particular individuals who would benefit most. Beyond the research and policy impact, our software coding for data harmonisation will be released for use in further research of a similar nature.