Arthritis Numbers Just the Tip of the Iceberg

December 1, 2017

Previous figures underestimated the burden of arthritis, especially among younger adults.

The prevalence of arthritis is significantly higher than previously thought or reported, particularly among adults under the age of 65.

Estimates of the number of Americans affected by arthritis have relied solely on patients being asked if they have ever been told by a health professional that they have arthritis. Previously, patients were not asked about joint symptoms on surveys.

Dr. S. Reza Jafarzadeh and Dr. David Felson, researchers at Boston University, believe that many cases of arthritis have been missed because of a lack of proper screening. They present their findings in a recent Arthritis & Rheumatology article.

The study
The authors analyzed the 2015 National Health Interview Survey in an effort to determine the true prevalence of arthritis and its demographic in the United States.

The results
• The study included 33,672 subjects; 19.3% of men and 16.7% of women aged 18 to 64 years reported symptoms of arthritis without a physician diagnosis of the same.

• Subjects 65 years of age or older reported joint symptoms at a rate of 15.7% among men and 13.5% among women.

• The prevalence of arthritis was 29.9% among men under 65 years of age, and 31.2% in women of similar age.

• In men over age 64, the prevalence of arthritis was 55.8%; it was 68.7% in comparable female subjects.

• Arthritis affected 36.8% of adults in the United States in 2015.

• The prevalence of arthritis in this study was 68% higher than in previous reports.

Implications for physicians
• Physicians should ask patients of all ages about joint symptoms in an effort to adequately diagnose arthritis in all age groups.

• Dr. Jafarzadeh states, “Our findings are important because of underestimated, yet enormous, economic and public health impacts of arthritis including health care costs and costs from loss of productivity and disability, including in adults younger than 65 years of age.”

• An effort should be made to interpret the rising rates of joint surgeries even among younger Americans.

Disclosures:

The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

References:

Jafarzadeh SR, Felson DT. Updated estimates suggest a much higher prevalence of arthritis in US adults than previous ones.Arthritis Rheumatol. 2017 Nov 27. doi: 10.1002/art.40355. [Epub ahead of print]