Research from NRAS reveals low level of knowledge for rheumatoid arthritis

20 June 2018

For RA Awareness Week 2018 – 18-24 June – NRAS (National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society) – has conducted independent research in partnership with YouGov to understand the public’s knowledge of the auto-immune condition.

The results revealed a huge misunderstanding of arthritis – more than 2 in 5 (42%) of those surveyed define RA as the wear and tear of joints, which is confusion with the more commonly known osteoarthritis (OA). And only around one in four Brits (27%) know that RA is an auto-immune condition!

When compared to other conditions such as MS, Lupus and Parkinson’s, RA is the most prevalent, affecting in excess of 400,000 people in the UK. However, around two fifths (41%) of those surveyed did not recognise that RA was the most common condition.

Perhaps the most worrying of the results; only one in ten people (9%) knew that the youngest age someone could suffer from rheumatoid arthritis is 16+. This leaves a large proportion of the population who are unsure or not clued up about RA – it is not an ‘older person’s disease’, it does not discriminate on age and can affect anyone from as young as 16. Ailsa Bosworth MBE, CEO at NRAS adds: “The reason I find this worrying is because it implies that the early signs and symptoms of RA would not be recognsied by younger people. And if it is not treated as a medical emergency then it can delay diagnosis and the urgent treatment required.”

RA is a complex and serious auto-immune disease where the immune system attacks the joint tissue causing inflammation, stiffness, pain and extreme fatigue. If ignored or undiagnosed, this chronic disease can increase mortality and impact other organs such as the heart, eyes and lungs.

Ailsa Bosworth MBE, CEO at NRAS comments on the findings: “This is the result of people seeing the word arthritis, and assuming that it is more common than the other conditions – but without a mental differentiation between RA and the many other forms of arthritis. We still have a long way to go in educating the public – it’s sad to learn that only one in four of us actually know what RA is, when it is very likely someone you know is living with this debilitating condition.”

“Society has come a long way since I was first diagnosed over 30 years ago with RA. There is more evidence-led treatment and support; I set up NRAS for this reason, as at the time of diagnosis I had nowhere to turn. This RA Awareness Week, I would be delighted if even just a percentage of the population took the time to understand the effect of this disease so that they can spot symptoms early. At the very least understanding the impact of RA on those who live with it, and be able to offer support. As with any health condition, diabetes, MS, Alzheimer’s or even cancer… often the best thing you can do is to understand and be there for the person,” Ailsa concludes.

This RA Awareness Week, NRAS is working to #ReframeRA, changing how we think of the condition and raising awareness of it. NRAS will cover many themes and topics relating to life with RA on its social media channels and website, including: spotting symptoms, managing illness in the workplace and opening up about a diagnosis. Often the biggest hurdle in awareness is to get people to talk about their condition.

Actress Claire King, known for her role on Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Bad Girls and Strictly Come Dancing openly talks about her life with RA and says: “You just think the worst at first. I asked myself if I was going to end up in a wheelchair and what did this mean for my acting career. My pain hasn’t held me back too much as luckily there is a lot of treatment available nowadays for rheumatoid arthritis. But I still wish more people knew what RA was and what I am going through. That’s why I am working with NRAS to support them in their mission to challenge misconceptions about this relatively invisible illness.”

For more information on NRAS and RA Awareness Week, visit:, or follow the conversation on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.