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NRAS Rheumatoid Arthritis Survey

 ComRes interviewed Brtish people aged 16+ on their perceptions and awareness of rheumatoid arthritis.

Date Published: 23 Jun 2013

Categories: Health | Public and communities | Public Sector | Social | UK


To coincide with the launch of the UK’s first ever Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week on 24-30 June, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) has today published new in-depth research on the extent of the public’s lack of knowledge about this chronic autoimmune disease which affects an estimated 690,000 people across the UK.
Headline findings are:
  • Only 41% of the British public agree that they understood what the symptoms of RA are. While many respondents correctly identified joint swelling (84%) and morning stiffness (71%) as main symptoms of RA, only a third correctly identified extreme fatigue (35%).
  • There is significant confusion about the differences between RA and osteoarthritis with only 33% saying they knew the difference between the two. Over two thirds (71%) incorrectly stated crunching and grinding of joints was a symptom of RA, which is in fact associated with osteoarthritis.
  • There is widespread misunderstanding about the impacts of the disease. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they did not know that RA affected a person’s life expectancy or believed that it did not, and only 16% correctly identified that RA can affect the internal organs of the body.
  • Current approaches to raising public awareness of RA and other long-term conditions just aren’t working. Only 10% of the British public said they had seen information displayed in public about the symptoms of RA and only 10% said they believed the Government was doing a good job regarding raising awareness of long term conditions, including RA.
  • The most damning assessment came from 16-18 year olds. Just one of the 70 surveyed said that they felt the Government currently does a good job raising public awareness, and not one respondent agreed strongly with this statement.
Raising public awareness of the disease is vital as there is a known ‘window of opportunity’. If a person diagnosed and started on appropriate  treatment within 12 weeks of their symptoms first appearing they are much more likely to achieve remission or low disease activity, meaning they can have  a much better quality of life through avoiding severe pain and disability caused by irreparable joint damage. An NAO report showed that half of patients didn’t even visit their GP within this timeframe.
Commenting on the publication of today’s report, Ailsa Bosworth, NRAS Chief Executive, said: “Public awareness of long-term conditions like RA really is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Existing approaches simply aren’t working and we are in desperate need of a more coordinated approach. Integrated healthcare starts with engaging healthy members of public before they become sick, not just letting the NHS try and pick up the pieces afterwards. It’s a big job, but I am confident that if we pool our resources better with government then we can make real inroads.”

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