Thursday, September 9, 2010

Poll says Canadians unaware arthritis affects workers

September is Arthritis Awareness Month

TORONTO, September 9, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - Many Canadians do not understand the impact arthritis has on people in the workplace, says The Arthritis Society.

A recent Ipsos Reid poll commissioned by The Arthritis Society reveals that many Canadians don't understand the struggles faced by workers with arthritis. Almost four in 10 Canadians surveyed believe employees with arthritis are able to perform the same duties as their co-workers.

"In fact, the pain, stiffness and fatigue associated with some types of arthritis can make it difficult for many workers to perform routine tasks," says Steven McNair, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society. "Most people with arthritis are affected during their prime income-earning years and many worry whether their symptoms will worsen and if they can continue working."

Of the more than four million Canadians with arthritis, about 60 per cent are of working age. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, caused by joint degeneration and inflammation. Although there is no known cure, there are a number of treatments but their effectiveness and accessibility can vary by individual situation. Most types of arthritis can be managed by pacing, planning ahead and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

A recent study of almost 500 employed Canadians with arthritis found that about 37 per cent left work at some point over a five-year period as a result of their disease.1 In addition, a recent Public Health Agency of Canada report stated that 44 per cent of employed people with arthritis are working with job limitations and 33 per cent require job modifications.2

Contessa Benson of Winnipeg was diagnosed with psoriatic polyarthritis almost four years ago and found it difficult to perform her duties as a travel agent.

"The pain was very intense," she recalls. "Whenever I walked, it felt like I was moving barefoot across a sea of knives. My hips were swollen so it was uncomfortable to sit in a chair. My fingers were also affected, which made it hard to use a pen or type on a keyboard. I didn't know how I could maintain my career. At my doctor's advice, I took a leave of absence to rest my joints and allow medications to work."

Now back on the job, Contessa continues to work thanks to workplace adjustments, planning and communication with co-workers. Her workspace has been outfitted with several ergonomic aids, such as a footstool and a raised keyboard, that protect her joints from excess wear and tear. She also plans ahead and paces herself. "I know there are parts of the day, particularly in the morning, when I'm feeling my best and that's when I try to get most of my work done. Taking breaks conserves my energy and keeps me alert. My colleagues have also been very cooperative; they spare me from a lot of physical exertion by moving chairs or lifting boxes."

"Arthritis currently costs the Canadian economy $6.4 billion every year in health-care expenses and lost work days," adds McNair. "With the prevalence of arthritis set to dramatically increase, this problem is about to get a lot worse so we need to find better treatments and a cure."

The Arthritis Society is drawing attention to the struggles of workers with arthritis during Arthritis Awareness Month in September. It has just published a new Arthritis in the Workplace booklet, available in English and French, which can be accessed online at

About The Arthritis Society

The Arthritis Society is Canada's principal health charity empowering the more than four million Canadians with arthritis to live their lives to the fullest through extensive programs and services. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has invested more than $170 million towards arthritis research to develop better treatments and, ultimately, find a cure.

About the Survey

The 2010 Arthritis in the Workplace Survey was responded to by 1,000 Canadian adults, 18 years of age or older, using the online Ipsos Reid Canadian Online Omnibus. The results of the survey are considered accurate to within ± 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Online questioning was conducted between July 6 and 9, 2010. To access the full results, visit

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