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Newest Estimates for Specific Forms of Arthritis

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the National Arthritis Data Workgroup is releasing a new study that reaffirms that nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults—46 million people—have arthritis, the nation’s most common cause of disability. The prevalence of osteoarthritis has increased to 27 million people, up from the previous estimate of 21 million.

The study, published in the January 2008 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, was a collaborative effort between several federal and private entities as part of the National Arthritis Data Workgroup (NADW).* The study found that arthritis continues to be a large and growing public health problem. By the year 2030, an estimated 67 million people will be affected by arthritis, according to the study.

The two-part study, titled “Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Conditions in the United States,” used published research to estimate the number of people affected by arthritis, which comprises more than 100 diseases and conditions that affect the joints, in 2005. This research included analyses from national surveys (e.g., the National Health Interview Survey) and from some smaller studies as well.

Other key findings include the following:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which can lead to chronic pain, loss of joint function, and deformity, is decreasing, with 1.3 million adults affected, down from 2.1 million in 1990—in part due to more restrictive classification criteria but also because of a real drop in prevalence.
  • Gout, a form of arthritis most common among men, affected approximately 3 million adults, up from 2.1 million in 1990.

“The prevalence of arthritis overall continues to grow in the United States, which is not surprising given that many of the specific conditions are age related and the general population is aging,” said Charles G. Helmick, MD, a CDC epidemiologist and a lead author on the study. “The increases in some of the more common types of arthritis suggest that they will have a growing impact on the health care and public health systems and more efforts should be made to promote underused but effective interventions and programs that could reduce that impact,” he said. “These include getting educated about managing your arthritis through the Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program and the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, and getting more physically active through the Arthritis Foundation Exercise or Aquatics Programs.

More information on the Arthritis Foundation, a CDC partner, is available at:

Editor’s Note: Some prevalence estimates are based on a few old or small studies of uncertain generalizability to the U.S. population. This is the case for lupus, which affected an estimated 161,000 to 322,000 adults, according to the study. This is a conservative estimate, and CDC-funded lupus registries in Georgia and Michigan are currently underway to better define the impact of the condition.

*NOTE: The NADW is a consortium of experts in epidemiology organized to provide a single source of national data on the prevalence and impact of rheumatic diseases. It is supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, National Institutes of Health; the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the American College of Rheumatology; and the Arthritis Foundation.


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