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Arthritis Facts

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, stiffness, and swelling in and around joints. Symptoms can develop gradually or they can appear suddenly.1
  • Conditions are clinically diagnosed by assessing medical history, symptoms, radiographs, and laboratory results.1

Who is affected?

  • Arthritis affects one in five adults in the United States.2
    • This equates to an estimated 52.5 million adults.2
    • This figure is projected to rise to 78 million by the year 2040.3
  • Two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than age 65.2
  • A greater proportion of whites (23%) and blacks (22%) report doctor-diagnosed arthritis compared with Hispanics (16%).2
  • However, Hispanics and blacks with arthritis report higher rates of activity limitations and severe pain in comparison to whites.2

What is the impact of arthritis?

  • Activity limitations are common: over 22.7 million adults experience limitations in everyday activities due to arthritis.2
  • 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
    • About half the people with heart disease and diabetes also have arthritis.2
    • 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.5,6
    • Nearly one-third of obese Americans have arthritis;2 the combination of obesity and arthritis makes them 44% more likely to be inactive.7

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What is the cost to society?

  • Arthritis is a leading cause of disability among adults in the United States.9 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).10
    • 41% of people with arthritis (4.9 million) who volunteer reported arthritis impedes their ability to volunteer. 10
    • 27% (6.8 million) of people with arthritis who do not volunteer cited arthritis as their main barrier to doing so. 10
  • Arthritis increases risk of falls and fall injuries substantially (about a 2.5-fold increase).11

+ Fact Sheet Sources

  1. Arthritis in General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website. Updated November 13, 2014. Accessed April 27, 2015.
  2. Barbour KE, Helmick CG, Theis KA, et al. Prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation-United States, 2010-2012. MMWR 2013;62 (44):869-873. html pdf [525KB]
  3. Hootman JM, Helmick CG, Barbour KE, Theis KA, Boring MA.  Updated projected prevalence of self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation among US adults, 2015-2040.  Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2016 Mar 25. [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1002/art.39692. PubMed PMID: 27015600. abstract 

  4. Bolen J, Sniezek J, Theis K, et al. Racial/ethnic differences in the prevalence and impact of doctor-diagnosed arthritis—United States, 2002. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005;54(5): 119-123. PubMed PMID: 15703693. abstract html pdf [639KB]
  5. Bolen J, Schieb L, Hootman JM, 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 [755KB]
  6. Bolen J, Murphy L, Greenlund K, et al. Arthritis as a potential barrier to physical activity among adults with heart disease— United States, 2005 and 2007. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58(7):165-169. PubMed PMID: 19247262. abstract html pdf [99KB]
  7. 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. PubMed PMID: 16627126. abstract
  8. Yelin E, Murphy L, Cisternas M, et al. 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. PubMed PMID: 17469096; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2925686. abstract
  9. Brault MW, Hootman J, Helmick CG, Theis KA. Armour BS. Prevalence and most common causes of disability among adults, United States, 2005. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2009;58(16):421-426. PubMed PMID: 19407734. abstract html pdf [125KB]
  10. 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 Res (Hoboken). 2010;62(7):907-916. doi: 10.1002/acr.20141. PubMed PMID: 20597117. abstract
  11. Barbour KE, Stevens JA, Helmick CG, et al. Falls and fall injuries among adults with arthritis—United States, 2012. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014;63(17):379-383. html pdf  [618KB]

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