Arthritis Limits Daily Activities of 24 million US Adults

Symptoms can be reduced with physical activity and educational programs


Press Release

Embargoed Until: Tuesday, March 7, 2017; 1:00 p.m. ET
Contact: Media Relations
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Arthritis will increase as the population grows and ages

More than 24 million adults with arthritis have activity limitations from their disease. The percentage of adults with arthritis who have activity limitations grew from 35.9% in 2002 to 42.8% in 2014, a significant increase of 20% overall and independent of the aging of the population. The everyday activities of these adults are limited by arthritis, such as holding a cup, lifting a grocery bag, or walking to their car, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report released today.

More than 54 million adults in the U.S, or about 1 in 4, have arthritis (a condition that can result in pain, aching, stiffness, and swelling of the joints). Almost 60 percent, or about 32 million, of those with arthritis are of working age (ages 18-64).

“Arthritis symptoms keep millions of Americans from going about their daily routines,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “Doctors and loved ones can help people with arthritis by encouraging them to be as physically active as they can be.  Physical activity is a proven strategy to ease pain and reduce symptoms among people with arthritis.”

When people with arthritis engage in physical activity they can reduce their arthritis symptoms by up to 40 percent. Yet, many adults with arthritis are not physically active.  About 1 in 3 adults with arthritis report that they do not engage in physical activity during leisure time.

Adults with arthritis also can reduce their symptoms by participating in disease management education programs. However, just 1 in 10 has taken part in these programs. Adults with arthritis are significantly more likely to attend an education program when recommended by a healthcare provider.

CDC researchers analyzed data from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey to update previous estimates of adults with arthritis and arthritis-related activity limitation.

Among the key findings:

  • About 54 million U.S. adults (23 percent) reported that their doctor had diagnosed them with arthritis.
  • About 24 million adults with arthritis had activity limitations because of their arthritis.
  • About half of all adults with heart disease or diabetes had arthritis. Nearly one third of adults who were obese also had arthritis. Arthritis makes it harder to manage these conditions.

“It’s extremely important for primary care providers to encourage their patients with arthritis to be physically active,” said CDC epidemiologist Kamil Barbour, PhD. “It is just as important for them to motivate their patients to attend workshops to learn how to better manage their arthritis.”

For more about arthritis and CDC’s arthritis program, visit State-by-state data on the number of people with arthritis or the number of people limited by the condition are available at:

About Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a monthly report that appears as part of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vital Signs provides the latest data and information on key health threats: cancer, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle passenger safety, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular health and others.


Page last reviewed: March 7, 2017