Objective. To examine the strength and stability of the relationships between disease-related factors (joint tenderness, pain, and functional disability), social support, and distress over time, and to investigate to what extent disease-related factors and social support can predict distress in short-term and long-term rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods. The study was a Dutch extension of the European Research on Incapacitating Diseases and Social Support and started with 292 patients. After 5 waves of data collection, 129 patients remained. Composite measures were computed following the area under the curve approach. Interaction terms were computed between functional disability and social support satisfaction. Correlational and hierarchical regression analyses were performed. Results. In patients with short-term RA, disease-related factors and social support were important in determining distress. Also, a buffering effect of social companionship was found. In total, 51% of the variance in distress in short-term RA could be explained primarily by mean distress over the previous years. In patients with long-term RA, disease-related factors remained important in determining distress, but to a lesser extent. Seventeen percent of the variance in distress in long-term RA could be explained primarily by mean distress over the years before. Conclusion. During the course of the disease, patients may learn to adjust to their disease and its consequences and are able to maintain a normal distress level. The effect of the disease on psychological distress decreased over the years. Some support for the buffering hypothesis of social support was found in short-term RA, but not in long-term RA.