Context: Social determinants of health (SDOH) are economic, social, and political conditions that affect a person’s overall health or the health of a group of people. Researchers have investigated the effects of SDOH on various diseases, such as asthma, obesity, and chronic stress, but few publications have been made regarding its effects on arthritis.
Objectives: Our primary objective was to analyze the implications of SDOH on disease severity relating to pain levels and limitations experienced among people with diagnosed arthritis.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). We included individuals who reported having arthritis, were over the age of 45, and who also completed the SDOH module. Pain scores from the four-question Arthritis Burden Module were correlated to question responses pertaining to SDOH to determine their associations.
Results: For the analysis, our sample size was 25,682, with response rates varying slightly among the SDOH questions. Individuals diagnosed with arthritis were more likely to report functional limitations if they experienced food insecurity (χ2=234.0, p<0.001), financial instability (χ2=149.7, p<0.001), or frequent stress (χ2=297.6, p<0.001). Further, we found that individuals with arthritis experiencing any domain of SDOH reported higher mean pain scores than those not experiencing that domain, with the highest pain score difference among those reporting frequent stress (Coefficient: 1.93, CI=1.74–2.13, t=19.43, p<0.001).
Conclusions: Our results show that SDOH profoundly impact pain levels and limitations experienced by patients with arthritis. Although work has already begun to help alleviate burdens associated with SDOH, more research and actions are required to create equitable health throughout the population.