Researchers studied a sample of more than 25,000 people between the ages of 40-79 years and found that lifestyle factors had a bearing on the risk of developing the disease.
The study revealed that smoking, obesity and having diabetes considerably increased the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Professor Ian Bruce said: "The factors we studied give us vital clues to the early events in the process that ends in someone developing RA. They are also simple to ask about and can be used as part of a prevention programme. Our new wave of funding from the Medical Research Council and National Institute of Health Research has allowed us to move forward to the next stage in our attempt to prevent the development of this distressing condition."