Researchers at the University of Aberdeen have been awarded £52,000 to investigate the impact of lockdown on patients with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions.
The CONTAIN study, led by the group’s own Clinical Chair in Epidemiology, Professor Gary Macfarlane, will shed light on the effects of lockdown on people with long-term conditions and on how their health may have been affected, including people with psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis (also know as ankylosing spondylitis) and chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia. It will be funded by the charity Versus Arthritis and the British Society for Rheumatology (BSR).
Around 2,000 patients across the UK with variety of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions - who have been involved in long-term studies with the University – will be sent questionnaires in the first instance, with in-depth interviews set up with some of them afterwards.
Professor Macfarlane explained that the lockdown caused by the pandemic presents certain challenges for patients with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions:
“We know that two key aspects of musculoskeletal health are taking exercise and maintaining good mental health. The ability to take exercise is likely to have been restricted while mental health is likely to be affected by the anxiety around the pandemic generally, together with concerns about one’s own health as well as the effects of social isolation,” said Professor Macfarlane.
“Understandably there has been a primary focus on undertaking research directly related to Covid-19 but we also risk forgetting people with chronic diseases just at a time when their need is greatest and with severely reduced services.”
“We are going to evaluate their current health and see how this has changed since they were previously surveyed, hear about their experience of care during the lockdown restrictions of the pandemic and ask about their perceived current and future care needs,” added Professor Macfarlane.
“The study will allow us to understand the consequences of the lockdown for people with long-term conditions and how their health may have been affected. It will also feed into discussions about how virtual consultations may be part of regular NHS healthcare in the future.”
Dr Stephen Simpson, Director of Research at Versus Arthritis, said:
“We’re delighted to support the extension of this work by Professor Macfarlane and colleagues to collect COVID impact data. This study will help us better understand the impact lockdown is having for people with musculoskeletal conditions, and allow us to improve healthcare and the management of these conditions. It is a great example of how research is adapting to meet the needs of people during the pandemic.”