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Press Release

October 24, 2002
Contact: Mary Kay Sones
(770) 488-6416

Arthritis and Chronic Joint Symptoms More Common Than Previously Thought

The first state-by-state survey of arthritis and chronic joint symptoms shows that 1 in 3 U.S. adults are affected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today.

The new data put the number of adults with arthritis and chronic joint symptoms at 70 million (33.0 percent), a substantial increase over the previous estimate that 43 million had arthritis. Researchers said the earlier estimate was probably too low and that arthritis-related questions on the new survey more accurately capture undiagnosed persons with chronic joint symptoms-pain, aching, stiffness, or swelling in or around their joints.

"Arthritis is the number one cause of disability, and the new data confirm that arthritis and chronic joint symptoms are one of our most common public health problems," said CDC Director Dr. Julie L. Gerberding. "CDC is committed to continuing to support the states in finding ways to reduce the arthritis-associated pain and limitations that affect so many Americans."

As part of the CDC's 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey, more than 212,000 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older were asked if their doctor had ever told them they had arthritis or if they had chronic joint symptoms during the past 12 months.

The percentages of people reporting arthritis and chronic joint symptoms varied widely among the states: Hawaii had the lowest rate (17.8 percent) and West Virginia had the highest (42.6 percent).

More women than men (37.3 percent and 28.4 percent, respectively) reported having arthritis and chronic joint symptoms, and whites (35.3 percent) and blacks (31.5 percent) were more likely to report them than Hispanics (23.3 percent) and other races or ethnic groups. (27.8). The 33 percent of adults with arthritis and chronic joint symptoms comprised 10.6 percent reporting doctor-diagnosed arthritis, 10.0 percent reporting chronic joint symptoms, and 12.4 percent reporting both.

These data will be invaluable to states in planning health services and arthritis intervention programs, said Dr. Charles Helmick of CDC's arthritis program and coauthor of the study. "Efforts to promote early diagnosis and appropriate clinical and self management are needed to reduce the impact of arthritis."

CDC currently provides funds to 36 health departments to improve the quality of life of people with arthritis through state-based programs and to more broadly disseminate self-management techniques, including appropriate physical activity programs. All 50 states conduct surveillance for arthritis and chronic joint symptoms in odd numbered years.

"These numbers show us that now, more than ever, arthritis is a fact of life," said Dr. John H. Klippel, medical director of the Arthritis Foundation. "The Arthritis Foundation, in partnership with the CDC, is committed to identifying the millions of Americans with arthritis and chronic joint symptoms so that we can help them take control of this chronic condition. Americans must take their joint health seriously, and see a health care provider at the earliest warning signs of arthritis, so that they can continue to enjoy active lives and avoid any future limitations."

Arthritis encompasses more than 100 diseases and conditions that affect joints and other connective tissue.

The full report appears in the October 25, 2002 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report For more information on arthritis, visit the CDC web site:; the Arthritis Foundation web site: and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.

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This page last updated October 24, 2002

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