Open Access Open Badges Research article

Illness perceptions in patients receiving rheumatology rehabilitation: association with health and outcomes at 12 months

Ida Løchting12*, Elin Fjerstad1 and Andrew M Garratt13

Author Affiliations

1 National Resource Centre for Rehabilitation in Rheumatology (NRRK), Department of Rheumatology, Diakonhjemmet Hospital, P.O. Box 23 Vinderen, Oslo, 0319, Norway

2 Communication- and Research Unit for Musculoskeletal Disorders (FORMI), Oslo University Hospital, Ullevaal, P.O. Box 4950 Nydalen, Oslo, 0424, Norway

3 Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services, P.O. Box 7004, St Olavs plass, Oslo, N-0130, Norway

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-28

Published: 16 January 2013



Illness perceptions have been found to change over time and following health care. Hence, addressing illness perceptions alongside existing health care interventions may be important for the sustainment of health gains following rehabilitation. The aim of this study was to measure the illness perceptions of patients receiving inpatient rheumatology rehabilitation and assess the association with aspects of health and outcomes at baseline, discharge and 12 months.


Patients with a rehabilitation stay of one week or more at three institutions in Norway in 2009 were invited to participate in the study. At baseline, discharge and 12 months, patients completed The Rheumatic Disease Illness Perception Questionnaire (RD-IPQ) which includes aspects of illness perceptions important to patients with rheumatic diseases. Stepwise regression analysis was used to assess associations between RD-IPQ scores and different aspects of health at baseline and follow-up after controlling for other aspects of health and sociodemographic variables.


For the 134 patients included in the study, baseline RD-IPQ scores had a mean of 58.2 (SD 14.9) on a 0–100 scale, where 100 is the worst possible. Scores showed improvement after the rehabilitation stay which were maintained at 12 months. RD-IPQ scores were positively associated with health and outcomes. At baseline RD-IPQ scores were statistically significant in explaining variation in pain, physical function and SF-36 mental health scores. Baseline RD-IPQ scores were significant in explaining fatigue, pain, SF-36 role limitations and social function scores following rehabilitation and at 12 months.


Illness perceptions as measured by the RD-IPQ were associated with health and outcomes as measured by rheumatology-specific and generic instruments. The consideration of illness perceptions as a component of rehabilitation may be important in achieving desired outcomes.

Rehabilitation; Rheumatic diseases; Illness perceptions