About 1 in 4 US Adults Have Arthritis, Burden Increasing: CDC

Megan Brooks

March 09, 2017

The prevalence and burden of arthritis are high and growing among US adults, particularly those with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, say federal health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

New data from the National Interview Survey show that, on average, during 2013-2015, 54.4 million adults in the United States (22.7%) had physician-diagnosed arthritis, according to a report published online March 7 in  Vital Signs .

"Arthritis affects about 1 in 4 adults in America, and as the US population grows and ages, we estimate there will be 78 million adults with arthritis by 2040," Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC acting director, said during a media briefing.

Almost half (49.6%, 22.2 million) of adults aged 65 years and older had arthritis, as did 7.1% (8.0 million) of young adults aged 18 to 44 years and 29.3% (24.2 million) of middle-aged adults (aged 45 to 64 years).

"Contrary to popular opinion, arthritis is not an old person's disease. About 60% of all adults with arthritis are less than 65 years old. And we know that working-age adults with arthritis have lower employment than those without arthritis," said Dr Schuchat.

Daily Struggles

Arthritis takes a toll on daily life. According to the new report, 23.7 million adults (43.5% of those with arthritis) have arthritis that limits their daily activities. The percentage of adults with arthritis that limits activity grew from 35.9% in 2002 to 42.8% in 2014, a significant increase of almost 20% overall. This increase was independent of the aging of the population, Dr Schuchat noted.

Among adults with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, the prevalence of arthritis was 49.3%, 47.1%, and 30.6%, respectively. Roughly half of adults with arthritis who had one of these chronic comorbid conditions experienced limitations in activity as a result of their arthritis.

"The bottom line is that arthritis is impacting the lives of millions of Americans every day. It's at an all-time high, with many unable to go about their daily routines because of their symptoms," Dr Schuchat said.

Dr Schuchat also noted that the annual direct medical costs attributable to arthritis in the United States hover around $81 billion.

The CDC is calling on healthcare providers to promote physical activity and disease management programs that are proven yet underused evidence-based interventions for arthritis, she added.

Physical activity can reduce arthritis symptoms by up to 40%, yet about 1 in 3 adults with arthritis are inactive, Dr Schuchat noted. Educational programs in disease management can help ease arthritis symptoms, yet only 1 in 10 patients have taken part in these programs, she said.

"It's extremely important for primary care providers to encourage their patients with arthritis to be physically active," CDC epidemiologist and first author Kamil Barbour, PhD, Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a news release. "It is just as important for them to motivate their patients to attend workshops to learn how to better manage their arthritis.

Vital Signs. Published online March 7, 2017. Full Text

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