Lower education and living in countries with lower wealth are associated with higher disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis: results from the multinational COMORA study

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Abstract

Objectives

To investigate the relationship of socioeconomic status (SES) on an individual and country level with disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and explore the mediating role of uptake of costly biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) in this relationship.

Methods

Data from a cross-sectional multinational study (COMOrbidities in RA) were used. Contribution of individual socioeconomic factors and country of residence to disease activity score with 28-joint assessment (DAS28) was explored in regression models, adjusting for relevant clinical confounders. Next, country of residence was replaced by gross domestic product (GDP) (low vs high) to investigate the contribution of SES by comparing R2 (model fit). The mediating role of uptake of bDMARDs in the relationship between education or GDP and DAS28 was explored by testing indirect effects.

Results

In total, 3920 patients with RA were included (mean age 56 (SD 13) years, 82% women, mean DAS28 3.7 (1.6)). After adjustment, women (vs men) and low-educated (vs university) patients had 0.35 higher DAS28. Adjusted country differences in DAS28, compared with the Netherlands (lowest DAS28), varied from +0.2 (France) to +2.4 (Egypt). Patients from low GDP countries had 0.98 higher DAS28. No interactions between individual-level and country-level variables were observed. A small mediation effect of uptake of bDMARDs in the relationship between education and DAS28 (7.7%) and between GDP and DAS28 (6.7%) was observed.

Conclusions

Female gender and lower individual or country SES were independently associated with DAS28, but did not reinforce each other. The association between lower individual SES (education) or lower country welfare (GDP) with higher DAS28 was partially mediated by uptake of bDMARDs.

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