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Alcohol Use Habits of Patients with RA Evaluated

BMJ Open; 2018 Dec 14; Larsson, et al

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who had stopped drinking alcohol had worse physical functioning and higher levels in pain-related variables, according to a recent investigation.

1,509 RA patients from 6 rheumatology clinics completed survey questions about alcohol and were included in the study. 86 of these had stopped drinking alcohol and 72 responded to the open question, “Why have you stopped drinking alcohol?” Their answers were analyzed with qualitative content analysis. The quantitative data were from a cross-sectional survey assessing disease severity, physical function (Health Assessment Questionnaire, HAQ) and health-related quality of life (hrQOL), pain, fatigue, patient global assessment, and lifestyle factors. Researchers found:

  • Patients who stopped drinking alcohol were older (median 69 years (36–90) vs 66 (23–95), had worse HAQ, worse hrQOL, worse patient global assessment scores, more pain, and more fatigue compared with patients drinking alcohol.
  • The qualitative content analysis revealed 5 categories describing reasons for patients with RA to stop drinking alcohol: illness and treatment; health and well-being; work and family; faith and belief; and dependencies and abuse.

Larsson I, Andersson MLE, for the BARFOT study group. Reasons to stop drinking alcohol among patients with rheumatoid arthritis in Sweden: A mixed-methods study. BMC Open. 2018;8(12):e024367. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024367.


This study, which evaluated alcohol habits of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), found that those who had stopped consuming alcohol had much higher levels of pain variables and worse physical functioning. 1,509 RA patients completed survey questions about their alcohol habits and their answers were evaluated using qualitative content analysis. Patients who had stopped consuming alcohol were older, had worse health-related quality of life, worse Heath Assessment Questionnaire scores, and more fatigue and pain when compared to RA patients who were still consuming alcohol. Finally, the study revealed 5 categories describing reasons for patients with RA to stop drinking alcohol: illness and treatment, health and well-being, work and family, faith and belief, and dependencies and abuse.Harold E. Paulus, M.D.; Emeritus Professor; University of California, Los Angeles; Division of Rheumatology.