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Study considers needs of young adults with arthritis

Pioneering study considers needs of young adults with arthritis
- Research a first for New Zealand

Pioneering new research by an Otago Polytechnic occupational therapy student will shed some light on the information and support required by an often hidden group of arthritis sufferers; those aged in their 20s and 30s.

Arthritis is the single biggest cause of disability in this country, affecting more than 530,000 New Zealanders (MOH 2012). It’s a common misconception that arthritis only affects older people, but children and young adults are also affected by many different types of arthritis.

Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student, Lauren Redshaw, has been granted a $5,000, 10-week summer research scholarship from Arthritis New Zealand to investigate the needs of New Zealanders first diagnosed with arthritis in their 20s and 30s. She will also submit recommendations on how those needs could be met.

Lauren’s interest in the topic was sparked when a 23-year-old friend was diagnosed with arthritis last year. “Her experiences were not positive in terms of the information and support she felt was available to her. So I undertook a literature review and couldn’t find any previous New Zealand research into those with arthritis from this age group.”

As part of her research, Lauren will conduct comprehensive interviews with five people with arthritis aged in their 20s or 30s.

“These are interesting ages because a lot of massive life events are often occurring, such as undertaking study, establishing careers, getting married or having children, for example. The participants of my research are going through these major stages and changes while also dealing with their arthritis.”

Arthritis New Zealand’s CEO, Sandra Kirby, says rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are among the most common types of arthritis affecting young adults.

“Arthritis not only affects joints; chronic pain, fatigue, anxiety, and - in some cases – depression, are other common symptoms described by people with arthritis,” she says. “Through Lauren’s project, Arthritis New Zealand hopes to gain more information about the needs of young people with arthritis so we can provide tailored support and resources to this group.”

The research will be supervised by Otago Polytechnic’s Principal Lecturer of Occupational Therapy, Dr Linda Robertson. “Lauren is an exceptional student with a keen interest in research, and it’s a pleasure to be able to encourage and support her as she completes this significant project.”

After finishing her research in February 2013, Lauren hopes to undertake follow-up studies as a basis for her Honours dissertation later that year.

“It’s an under-researched area and there’s a real need for more information about this often-overlooked group of arthritis sufferers,” she says.


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