Prevalence of Self-Reported Arthritis or Chronic Joint Symptoms Among Adults - United States, 2001

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2002;51(42) 

In This Article


Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions comprise the leading cause of disability among adults in the United States,[1] and the cost of this public health burden is expected to increase as the U.S. population ages.[2] State-specific estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and chronic joint symptoms (CJS) are important for planning health services and programs to prevent arthritis-related disability and for tracking progress toward meeting state and national health objectives for 2010.[3] In 2001, questions about arthritis and CJS were asked of adult respondents in every state through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). This report summarizes the results of that survey, which indicate that the estimated U.S. prevalence of arthritis/CJS was 33.0% among adults. Increased intervention efforts, including early diagnosis and appropriate clinical and self-management (e.g., physical activity, education, and maintaining appropriate weight), are needed to reduce the impact of arthritis and CJS.

BRFSS is a state-based, random-digit-dialed telephone survey of the noninstitutionalized U.S. population aged ≥18 years. BRFSS is administered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.[4] Respondents were classified as having CJS if they answered "yes" to two questions: "In the past 12 months, have you had pain, aching, stiffness, or swelling in or around a joint?" and "Were these symptoms present on most days for at least a month?" Respondents were considered to have physician-diagnosed arthritis if they answered "yes" to the question, "Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have arthritis?" Respondents reporting either CJS or physician-diagnosed arthritis were classified as having arthritis/CJS. Respondents who did not know, were not sure, or refused to answer were classified as not having either condition. The median response rate for 2001 was 51.4%. Data were weighted by age and sex to reflect each state's most recent adult population estimate. SUDAAN was used to calculate point estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

In 2001, the estimated prevalence of arthritis/CJS among U.S. adults was 33.0% (95% CI=32.7%-33.4%), representing approximately 69.9 million adults ( Table 1 ), including 10.6% (22.4 million) of the adult population with physician-diagnosed arthritis only, 10.0% (20.9 million) with CJS only, and 12.4% (26.6 million) with both. Prevalence increased with age. Women had higher prevalence than men, and non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks had higher prevalence than Hispanics and persons of other racial/ethnic groups. Other groups with higher prevalence were persons who had not completed high school, those who were physically inactive, and those who were obese or overweight (i.e., having a body mass index ≥25.0). The median state prevalence was 33.1% (range: 17.8% [Hawaii]-42.6% [West Virginia]) ( Table 2 ), with states in the central and northwestern United States having the highest prevalence (Figure). To reflect each state's burden of arthritis/CJS more accurately, state estimates were made without any adjustment; comparisons among states would require adjusting for recognized risk factors such as age, which differ among states.

Reported by: J Bolen, PhD, CG Helmick, MD, JJ Sacks, MD, G Langmaid, Div of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.


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