In the United States, 24% of all adults, or 58.5 million people, have arthritis. It is a leading cause of work disability, with annual costs for medical care and lost earnings of $303.5 billion.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Other forms include gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Symptoms of arthritis are pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling in or around the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
More than half of US adults (57.3%) with arthritis are of working age (18 to 64 years). Arthritis can limit the type of work they are able to do or keep them from working at all. In fact, 8 million working-age adults report that their ability to work is limited because of their arthritis. For example, they may have a hard time climbing stairs or walking from a parking deck to their workplace.
CDC conducts research and supports programs for people with arthritis so they can work and do other daily activities, have less pain, manage their own care, and prevent or delay disability.
CDC collects arthritis data through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the National Health Interview Survey. These surveys provide information about:
- The number and percentage of adults who have arthritis.
- Whether the numbers or percentages are going up or down.
- How the disease affects people’s quality of life.
CDC’s Arthritis Program uses this information to guide public health decisions about the best ways to help adults with arthritis.
CDC recognizes several proven approaches to reduce arthritis symptoms:
- Participate in a self-management education program, such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, that teaches the skills and confidence to live well with arthritis every day.
- Be active. Physical activity—such as walking, biking, and swimming—decreases arthritis pain and improves function, mood, and quality of life. Adults with arthritis should move more and sit less throughout the day. Getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week is recommended. However, any physical activity is better than none. CDC-recommended physical activity programs can improve health for participants with arthritis.
- Maintain a healthy weight. People can reduce their risk of knee osteoarthritis by controlling their weight.
- Protect your joints. People can help prevent osteoarthritis by avoiding activities that are more likely to cause joint injuries.
- Talk with a doctor. Recommendations from health care providers can motivate people to be physically active and join a self-management education program. People with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, have a better quality of life if they are diagnosed early, receive treatment, and learn how to manage their condition.
Thirteen states use CDC funding to expand the reach of proven arthritis self-management education and physical activity programs and sustain them over time. States also use CDC funding to increase health care provider counseling about the benefits of physical activity for arthritis management, promote walking, and encourage referral of patients with arthritis to proven intervention programs. Funded states and national organizations have reached over 200,000 adults with these programs.
For example, in New Hampshire, musculoskeletal conditions (including lower back pain, joint pain and osteoarthritis) cost the state $22.1 million in insurance claims in 2019. In response, the New Hampshire Arthritis Program partnered with Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and the state Department of Administrative Services to offer Walk With Ease Self-Directed and Self-Directed Enhanced programs to all state employees, retirees, and dependents.
CDC also works with national organizations to expand the use of evidence-based interventions for adults with arthritis. For example, the National Recreation and Park Association has supported local park agencies in 48 states and American Samoa to deliver the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, Active Living Every Day, Fit & Strong!, or Walk With Ease program.
The Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA) helped expand access to the Self-Directed Walk With Ease program by creating a portalexternal icon that allows people to participate at their own pace. OAAA also worked with partners to develop A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis: 2020 Updateexternal icon, a guide for using strategies across various sectors to improve the quality of life for adults living with arthritis and other chronic conditions.