Is Arthritis An Old Person’s Disease?

Arthritis is one of the most predominant medical conditions worldwide. Most people think arthritis is an old person’s disease.

Although arthritis is most common amongst people over 45, infants as young as 1 are being diagnosed with it too.

Most importantly, regular physical activity is an important strategy for relieving pain and improving function for people with all kinds of arthritis.

It is the last point, which I have embraced & has given me greater Vitality leading to me regaining an active lifestyle. This is s case of putting one foot in front of the other! 

My call to action is for us all to adopt a holistic approach to our lives – Eat well, Get enough sleep, reduce negative stress & More move! I know from direct experience that this is likely to mitigate the impact of arthritis.

The Predominance of Arthritis World-Wide

In the UK, 8.75 million people in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis. This means: 33% of people aged 45 years and over and 49% of women and 42% of men of those aged 75 years and over. 4.11 million people in England are estimated to have osteoarthritis of the knee (around 18% of the population aged 45 and over) and 2.46 million people in England have osteoarthritis of the hip (around 11% of the population aged 45 and over) – Stats from Arthritis Research.

Based on 2010-2012 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an estimated

  • 52.5 million (22.7%) of adults have self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
  • 22.7 million (9.8% of all adults) have arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation.

Based on 2010-2012 data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a projected

  • 78 million (26%) adults aged 18 years or older will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis by the year 2040.
  • An estimated 35 million adults (44% of those with arthritis) will report arthritis-attributable activity limitations by the year 2040.

Regular physical activity is an important strategy for relieving pain and maintaining or improving function for people with arthritis.

Despite that, people with arthritis are less likely to be physically active than those without arthritis.

Nearly half of adults with arthritis report no leisure-time physical activity.  Not being physically active is bad for arthritis, is a risk factor for other chronic diseases and interferes with management of other conditions.

How is this affecting people’s lives?

Among adults with doctor-diagnosed arthritis, many report significant functional limitations such as:

  • Walking ¼ mile – about one in six
  • Grasping – about one in 22
  • Climbing stairs – about one in nine.

All Ages, Races and Genders:

People commonly think of arthritis as an old people’s problem. But arthritis is not a disease of old age:

  • Infants, as young as 1 year old, can get a potentially serious disease called systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
  • Two-thirds of people with arthritis are under age 65, including an estimated 300,000 children.
  • But the risk of arthritis does increase with age. Almost half of adults 65 years old or older have arthritis.
  • Doctor-diagnosed arthritis is more common in women (26 percent) than in men (18 percent). In some types, such as rheumatoid arthritis, women far outnumber men.
  • Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are a leading cause of disability among US adults, and were a leading cause of disability among US adults for the past 15 years. 
  • The estimated direct cost of physical inactivity to the NHS across the UK is £1.06 billion per year.
  • The NHS costs associated with overweight and obesity each year are £5.1 billion.
  • The cost of treating and caring for hip fractures in the UK could rise to £6 billion by 2036.
  • The medical and social care cost of hip fracture in the UK is around £2 billion per year.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions account for 30.5% of all years lived with disability.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions account for 42% of all reported cases of work-related ill health.
  • 30.6 million working days were lost due to sickness absence caused by a musculoskeletal condition in the UK in 2013.
  • Older adults who engage in regular physical activity have around 30% lower risk of falls.
  • The Chief Medical Officers’ national guidelines for physical activity advise that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week.
  • Obese people are more than twice as likely to develop knee osteoarthritis than those of normal body weight.

Stats from www.cdc.gov, www.arthritis.org and www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Stats from Europe (www.eumusc.net):

  • Musculoskeletal conditions are the primary cause of disability in Europe. These conditions affect people of all ages. In most musculoskeletal conditions, people pass from having normal health to being at risk and then developing clinical manifestations.
  • Despite the widespread prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions and their significant detrimental impact on the well-being of individuals and society they have not been included among the top ten non-communicable diseases identified for action by the WHO. This is primarily due to the low mortality from musculoskeletal conditions in comparison with other health conditions. There is evidence however of increased mortality associated with musculoskeletal conditions.
  • The lowest mortality rates for both men and women are in the Czech Republic. The highest rates for males are in Denmark and for females are in the UK.
  • The average proportion of people in the EU 27 who say they never do any exercise or do so very rarely is 24%. However this varies widely from 51% in Lithuania to 14% in Germany.
  • Vitamin D inadequacy is particularly common among patients with osteoporosis. A global study of vitamin D status in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis showed that 24% had 25(OH)D levels less than 10 ng/mL (25 nmol/L), with the highest prevalence reported in central and southern Europe (Lips et al 2001). A study of Asian adults in the United Kingdom showed that 82% had 25(OH)D levels less than 12 ng/mL (30 nmol/L) during the summer , with the proportion increasing to 94% during the winter months (Pal 2003).

Stats from Canada (www.modelsofcare.ca):

  • The prevalence of self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis and rheumatism in Canadian adults 15 years and older has increased from 13.4% to 17.6% from 1994 to 2002.
  • Prevalence of arthritis in 2008 is similar for Ontario (16.9%), Alberta (14.2%), and British Columbia (14.7%).
  • Prevalence based on self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis in the United States (US) is 21.6% according to the National Arthritis Data Workgroup.
  • The difference in Canada and the US is accounted for by the higher prevalence of inactivity and obesity in US women.
  • Prevalence is 13.0% in the United Kingdom.
  • Prevalence is 15.0% to 24.0% in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Prevalence of arthritis and rheumatism in South American and Caribbean countries ranges from 23.8% to 56.0%.
  • In all countries, prevalence was higher in females compared to males and prevalence increases with age.

Stats from Australia (www.abs.gov.au):

  • Arthritis is a musculoskeletal condition in which a person’s joints become inflamed, which may result in pain, stiffness, disability and deformity. The symptoms often have a significant impact on everyday life. 
  • In 2011-12, 14.8% of Australians (or around 3.3 million people) had arthritis, with prevalence higher amongst women than men (17.7% compared with 11.8%). 
  • Of persons with arthritis, more than half (55.9%) had osteoarthritis, 13.6% had rheumatoid arthritis, and 37.3% had an unspecified type of arthritis. Note that as it is possible to have more than one type of arthritis, proportions add to more than 100%.
  • The prevalence of arthritis increased with age, from less than 1% of people aged under 25 years to 52.1% of people aged 75 years and over. Women aged 45 years and over were considerably more likely to have arthritis than men. In particular, at ages 75 years and over, 59.9% of women had arthritis compared with 42.3% of men.

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