Ongoing shielding behavior one year post COVID-19: results from a longitudinal study of patients with inflammatory arthritis.
Many patients with inflammatory arthritis (IA) were instructed to shield during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the ending of lockdowns and vaccination, large proportions of IA patients were continuing to shield when it is no longer needed. Given the detrimental effects of shielding on mental and physical health, understanding the rates and reasons for shielding is needed to help clinicians advise patients accordingly. This study was a 12-month prospective study following participants with IA during the COVID-19 pandemic. The proportions of IA patients shielding at each time point were calculated. Additionally, regressions and odds ratios for shielding were determined to assess medication type, mental health, and risk perception. While the extent of shielding fluctuated over the year of lockdowns, nearly all IA patients (93.5%) were still engaging in some shielding in 2021, with nearly half (43%) still shielding most or all of the time. Medications that were previously considered higher risk were not significantly associated with higher rates of shielding (OR = 1.60, p = 0.29), but greater symptoms of depression in June 2020 (OR = 1.07, p = 0.03) was both associated with increased the odds of shielding in June 2021. The high rates of IA patients continuing to shield in 2021 put more strain on patients and professionals as social isolation is linked with worsening mental and physical health, as well as greater difficulty with self-management. It is important for clinicians to be aware of this trend to ease the stress on patients.