The impact of COVID-19 on clinical care, self-management and mental health of patients with inflammatory arthritis

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Objectives: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown and ongoing restrictions in the UK affected access to clinical care, self-management and mental health for many patients with inflammatory arthritis. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of lockdown on inflammatory arthritis clinical care, self-management, disease outcomes and mental health. Methods: In total, 338 people with inflammatory arthritis participated in a prospective study, completing a series of online questionnaires. The questionnaires assessed demographics, inflammatory arthritis condition and management, clinical care, quality of life and mental health. Visual analogue scales (VASs) were completed at each assessment. Linear regression, controlling for confounders, was conducted to determine factors associated with physical and mental health outcomes. Results: More than half of participants reported worsening VAS by >10 points for patient global assessment (PGA), pain, fatigue and emotional distress during the initial lockdown. Changes in clinical care were associated with worse PGA (b = 8.95, P = 0.01), pain (b = 7.13, P = 0.05), fatigue (b = 17.01, P < 0.01) and emotional distress (b = 12.78, P < 0.01). Emotional distress and depression were also associated with worse outcomes in PGA, pain and fatigue, whereas loneliness was not. In contrast, physical activity seemed to mitigate these effects. Loneliness did not show any associations with outcomes. Over time, these effects decreased or disappeared. Conclusion: Changes to clinical care owing to lockdown were associated with worse disease outcomes in patients with inflammatory arthritis. There has also been a clear impact on mental health, with possibly complex relationships between mental health and psychosocial factors. Physical activity emerged as a key influence on disease outcomes and mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberrkab095
Pages (from-to)rkab095
JournalRheumatology Advances in Practice
Issue number1
Early online date4 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


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