Growing evidence shows interrelations of psychological factors, neurological and immunological processes. Therefore, constructs like a balance of activities, the so called "occupational balance", could also have biological correlates. The aim of this study was to investigate potential associations between occupational balance, functioning, cytokines and C-reactive protein (CRP) in patients suffering from a chronic inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and healthy people. Moreover, we wanted to explore potential differences in gender and employment status.A descriptive study in patients with RA and healthy people was conducted using the Occupational Balance-Questionnaire (OB-Quest) and the Short-Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36). Serum levels of cytokines, such as interleukin 6 (IL-6) and 8 (IL-8), interferon alpha (INFα), tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), rheumatoid factor (RF) and of CRP were measured. Descriptive statistics, as well as Mann-Whitney U tests and Spearmen's rank correlation coefficients (rs) were calculated.One-hundred-thirty-two patients with RA and 76 healthy people participated. Occupational balance was associated with functioning, cytokines and CRP. The strongest associations were identified in the unemployed healthy-people sample with cytokines and CRP being within the normal range. For example, the OB-Quest item challenging activities was associated with IL-(rs = - 0.63, p = 0.04) and the SF-36 sub-scale bodily pain was associated with IFNα (rs = - 0.69, p = 0.02). The items rest and sleep (rs = - 0.71, p = 0.01) and variety of different activities (rs = - 0.74, p < 0.01) correlated with the SF-36 sub-scale social functioning. Employed and unemployed people differed in their age and CRP levels. Additionally, gender differences were found in two OB-Quest items in that fewer women were able to adapt their activities to changing living conditions and fewer men were overstressed. In conclusion, we found preliminary biological evidence for the link between occupation and health in that the concepts encompassed in the construct of occupational balance were associated with functioning, cytokines and CRP.
Dür, M., Steiner, G., Stoffer, M. A., Fialka-Moser, V., Kautzky-Willer, A., Dejaco, C., … Stamm, T. A. (2016). Initial evidence for the link between activities and health: Associations between a balance of activities, functioning and serum levels of cytokines and C-reactive protein. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 65, 138–148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.12.015