The Impact of Osteoarthritis on the Functioning and Health Status of a Low-Income Population: An Example of a Disability Paradox

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The aim of this study was to measure the impact of osteoarthritis on the functioning and health status of individuals living in a low-income urban community in Mexico.


We conducted a cross-sectional, community-based study from December 2014 to November 2015, using the Community Oriented Program for Control of Rheumatic Diseases methodology to identify cases of musculoskeletal disease in a sample of adults older than 18 years in Pueblo Nuevo, Apodaca, Mexico. Two rheumatologists confirmed all cases of osteoarthritis (OA) using predefined criteria. Functioning was evaluated through (a) self-report of difficulty doing personal care, work, and leisure activities; (b) the modified Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire–Disability Index; and (c) the Timed Up and Go test. Health status was evaluated using the EuroQoL 5 Dimensions. Statistical analyses were performed using χ2 tests and logistic regression models.


Four hundred thirty-nine individuals with a mean age of 45.2 years were included, and 83 cases of OA were confirmed. The presence of OA was not significantly associated with having difficulties to do personal care, work, or leisure activities, but it was significantly associated with a higher Health Assessment Questionnaire–Disability Index score, longer time to complete the Timed Up and Go, and lower health status.


Osteoarthritis is associated with having higher disability and worse health status in the community studied. A disability paradox was detected as some individuals perceived disability for doing standard activities but did not present disability performing their real-life activities. This underlies the importance of addressing the mental dimension during the management of this population.

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