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Embitterment in patients with a rheumatic disease after a disability pension examination: occurrence and potential determinants

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2014 Vol.32, N°3
PI 0308, PF 0314
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PMID: 24708914 [PubMed]

Received: 09/05/2013
Accepted : 12/11/2013
In Press: 07/04/2014
Published: 26/05/2014


Health care and vocational professionals regularly encounter patients with rheumatic diseases who are embittered after a disability pension examination. People who are embittered typically feel victimised, experience resentment and injustice, resist help, and have difficulty coping. Our objective was to examine the occurrence of embitterment in patients with rheumatic diseases after a disability pension examination and the association of embitterment with its possible determinants helplessness and illness invalidation at work.
The Illness Cognition Questionnaire (ICQ), Illness Invalidation Inventory (3*I), and Bern Embitterment Inventory were completed by patients who had 9 to 12 weeks earlier received the result of a disability pension examination. Diagnoses were fibromyalgia (n=103), rheumatoid arthritis (n=46), osteoarthritis (n=158), another rheumatic disease (n=62), and more than one rheumatic disease (n=187). Scores were compared to scores of reference groups. Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted.
Eighteen to 27 percent of patients had high levels of embitterment with no differences between diagnostic groups (p=0.71). Helplessness (p<0.001), the two invalidation dimensions discounting and lack of understanding (p<0.001), and the combination of helplessness with these invalidation dimensions (p<0.01), were predictive of more embitterment.
Our results suggest that, after a disability pension examination, embitterment is present in about one out of five patients with a rheumatic disease. This is problematic insofar as embitterment limits well-being, functioning, and the potential to reintegrate to work. To the extent that helplessness and invalidation at work are causal determinants of embitterment, interventions targeting these aspects may be key to reduce embitterment.

Rheumatology Article