Exploring the health benefits of everyday activities for people with inflammatory arthritis


Scientific Study Title:

The health-promoting potential of occupations characterized as creative and social: An exploratory study of adults with and without inflammatory arthritis

Why Did We Do This Research?

Inflammatory arthritis, including but not limited to rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, can significantly limit a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities, such as working, being physically active, or cooking. Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much research on the specific types of daily activities that can support individuals living well with inflammatory arthritis, although these activities are important for promoting good health. This research aimed to explore the relationship between health and people’s everyday activities, often referred to as “occupations,” in adults with inflammatory arthritis compared to a healthy comparison group. It also aimed to understand the impact of public health measures on people’s activities and health during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Was Done?

Participants took part in a two-hour group session where they filled out questionnaires about their health and daily activities. These questionnaires measured their physical and mental health, how well they balanced their various daily activities, and their overall life satisfaction. A variety of specific tools were used for this study, such as the SF-36 Health Survey, the Occupational Balance Questionnaire, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Participants also provided blood samples through a pinprick blood test to measure telomere length, which indicates cellular aging. Some participants also completed a second set of questionnaires during the COVID-19 pandemic, making them part of the “before and during the pandemic” population vs prior to.

Who Was Involved?

143 people took part in this study, all non-smokers (due to the effects of smoking on health measures used in the study). Of these, 67 were adults with various types of inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, and juvenile arthritis. The other 76 participants were generally healthy adults without arthritis and served as the healthy comparison group. In the pandemic before-and-after study, 71 adults participated, 34 with inflammatory arthritis and with 37 in the comparison group.

What Did We Find?

This study revealed the following observations:

  • People with IA reported lower physical health.
  • Both groups, those with IA and those without, engaged in similar activities/occupations, such as self-care, hobbies, and life planning.
  • Both groups did not show significant differences in telomere length, suggesting that daily activities did not have a strong association with cellular aging.
  • Both groups showed that maintaining a balance of activities was connected to better mental health.
  • Both groups reported a more satisfying balance across their activities during COVID-19 compared to before the pandemic.
  • Only the group without arthritis experienced a decrease in mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why Was This Research Important for People with Arthritis?

The aim of this research was to help us better understand how the daily activities of people with arthritis are linked to their health. This knowledge can guide us in suggesting specific activities that promote better health and provide recommendations for living well with arthritis.

Study Start and Study End Date: 

This study took place between 2018 and 2021

Principal Investigator:

Catherine Backman, Professor, UBC; Senior Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada


Flora To-Miles, OT; PhD Candidate, UBC

Dr. Susan Forwell, Associate Professor, UBC

Dr. Eli Puterman, Assistant Professor, UBC


Members of the Arthritis Patient Advisory Board, including:

Katie LeBlanc

Philippa Tattersall

Dr. Petra Wagman

Dr. Carita Håkansson

Who funded this research?

The Arthritis Society and the University of British Columbia Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy


Related publications:

  • To-Miles F, Håkansson C, Wagman P, Backman CL. (2022). Exploring the associations among occupational balance and health of adults with and without inflammatory arthritis. Arthritis care & research, 74(1), 22–30. https://doi.org/10.1002/acr.24732
  • To-Miles F, Backman CL, Forwell S, Puterman E, Håkansson C, Wagman P. (2022). Exploring occupations and well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in adults with and without inflammatory arthritis. Journal of Occupational Science, 29(3), 368-385. https://doi=10.1080%2F14427591.2022.2057573