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Fact Sheet about Arthritis

What is arthritis?

  • Arthritis is an umbrella term encompassing more than 100 conditions affecting joints and connective tissue.1
  • As there are different types of arthritis, there is no uniform set of symptoms. In general, arthritis and other related conditions are characterized by pain and stiffness in and around joints. Symptoms can develop gradually or they can appear suddenly.1
  • Conditions are clinically diagnosed by assessing medical history, symptoms and laboratory studies.1

Who is affected?

  • Arthritis affects one in five adults in the United States2
    • This equates to an estimated 52.5 million adults.2
    • Projections estimate this figure will rise to 67 million by the year 2030.3
  • Two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than age 65.2
  • A greater proportion of Caucasians (22%) report doctor-diagnosed arthritis than Hispanics (16%).4
  • However, Hispanics and African-Americans report higher rates of activity limitations and severe pain in comparison to Caucasians.4

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What is the impact of arthritis?

  • Activity limitations are common: over 22.7 million adults experience limitations in everyday activities due to arthritis.2
  • Among adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, many report significant limitations in vital activities:
    • walking 1/4 mile - 6 million5
    • stooping/ bending/ kneeling - 8 million5
    • climbing stairs - 5 million5
    • social activities such as church and family gatherings - 2 million5
  • One quarter of adults with doctor diagnosed arthritis report severe pain in the last 30 days.6
  • Arthritis commonly occurs with and can complicate the management of other chronic diseases
    • More than half the people with heart disease and diabetes also have arthritis.6,7
    • People with heart disease or diabetes in conjunction with arthritis are more likely to be inactive than people with none or just one of those conditions.6,7
    • Nearly one-third (30%) of obese Americans have arthritis; the combination of obesity and arthritis makes them 44% more likely to be inactive.8

What is the cost to society?

  • Total cost attributable to arthritis was estimated at $128 Billion in 2003, $81 Billion in direct medical expenses, and $47 Billion in indirect costs such as lost wages.9
  • Arthritis is the most common cause of disability among adults in the United States.10 Arthritis causes work limitations for 30% of working age people with the condition.
    • An estimated 8.8 million working Americans report work limitations.3
  • Arthritis negatively impacts the ability of American adults ≥45 years old to volunteer (or do unpaid work outside of their home).11
    • 41% of people with arthritis (4.9 million) who volunteer reported arthritis impedes their ability to volunteer. 11
    • 27% (6.8 million) of people with arthritis who do not volunteer cited arthritis as their main barrier to doing so. 11

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+Fact Sheet Sources

  1. CDC 2011.
  2. Barbour KE, Helmick CG, Theis KA, Murphy LB, Hootman JM, Brady TJ, Cheng YJ. Prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation-United States, 2010-2012. MMWR 2013;62 (44):869-873.   html pdf - 198KB
  3. Hootman JM, Helmick CG. Projections of U.S. prevalence of arthritis and associated activity limitations. Arthritis Rheum 2006;54(1):266–229 abstract.
  4. CDC 2005. Bolen J, Sniezek J, Theis K, Helmick CG, Hootman JM, Brady TJ et al. Racial/Ethnic Differences in the Prevalence and Impact of Doctor-Diagnosed Arthritis --- United States, 2002. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 54(05), 119-123. html; pdf[285K]
  5. CDC 2004 abstract. Arthritis Rheum 2004; 50(9, suppl):5641.
  6. CDC 2010. Bolen J, Schieb L, Hootman JM, Helmick CG, Theis K, Murphy LB, et al. Differences in the prevalence and impact of arthritis among racial/ethnic groups in the United States, National Health Interview Survey, 2002, 2003, and 2006. Prev Chronic Dis 2010;7(3). html pdf
  7. CDC 2009. Bolen J, Murphy L, Greenlund K, , Helmick CG, Hootman J, Brady TJ, Langmaid G, Keenan N. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with heart disease — United States, 2005 and 2007. MMWR 2009;58(7):165-169. html; pdf[1.25Mb]
  8. CDC 2006. Shih M, Hootman JM, Kruger J, Helmick CG. Physical activity in men and women with arthritis, National Health Interview Survey, 2002. Am J Prev Med 2006;30(5):385-93. abstract
  9. CDC 2007. Yelin E, Murphy L, Cisternas M, Foreman A, Pasta D, Helmick C. Medical Care Expenditures and Earnings Losses Among Persons with Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Conditions in 2003, and Comparisons to 1997. Arthritis and Rheumatism 2007;56(5):1397-1407.
  10. CDC 2009. Brault MW, Hootman J, Helmick CG, Theis KA. Armour BS. Prevalence and most common causes of disability among adults, United States, 2005. MMWR 2009;58(16):421-426. html pdf[1.3Mb]
  11. CDC 2010. Theis KA, Murphy L, Hootman JM, Helmick CG, Sacks JJ. Arthritis restricts volunteer participation: prevalence and correlates of volunteer status among adults with arthritis. Arthritis Care & Research 2010;62(7):907–16. abstract

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  • Arthritis Program
    Mailstop K-51
    4770 Buford Hwy NE
    Atlanta, GA 30341-3724
  • Phone: 770.488.5464
    Fax: 770.488.5964
  • The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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