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Obesity Trends in Adults with Arthritis

Obesity is common among people with arthritis and is a modifiable risk factor associated with arthritis-related disease progression, activity limitation, disability, reduced quality-of-life, total joint replacement, and poor clinical outcomes after joint replacement. This report used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to assess changes by state in obesity prevalence among adults with arthritis from 2003 to 2009. The prevalence of obesity among adults with arthritis is on average 54% higher than among adults without arthritis (figure).

Obesity prevalence among adults with arthritis significantly increased between 2003 and 2009 in 15 states, significantly decreased in the District of Columbia, and remained stable in other states. In 2009, 48 states had obesity prevalence among adults with arthritis of 30% or higher.

Figure 1

A bar graph illustrating Obesity Prevalence Among Adults with and without Arthritis for 2003 and 2009. In 2003, 33.2 % of people with arthritis were obese and 21.4 % of people who were obese did not have arthritis. In 2009,35.2 of people with arthritis were obese and 23.6 % of people who were obese did not have arthritis.

Obese persons with arthritis may have a difficult time losing weight because pain may limit their mobility and physical activity, which is a key part of weight loss. However, low impact physical activity and dietary changes can lead to successful weight loss for persons with arthritis. In fact, losing as little as 10 to12 pounds can make a difference in pain and function. Aquatic exercise, stationary cycling, or walking may be good options for increasing physical activity for most overweight or obese persons with arthritis. Several physical activity programs appropriate for those people with arthritis are available in local communities.


Hootman JM, Pan L, Helmick CG, Hannan C. State-specific trends in obesity prevalence among adults with arthritis, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2003–2009. MMWR 2011;60(16):509-513. html pdf [1.84MB]

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