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Arthritis Study Looks at Trends Over 16-Year Period

Results pose interesting questions on prevalence and demographics

A PPM Brief

A recent study1 looked at nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), a series of studies from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the US, from 1999 to 2014.

During the 16-year period, age-adjusted prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) decreased overall. The introduction of effective drugs to improve treatment regimens over the past 20 years has presumably led to this decrease in RA prevalence, according to the researchers.

However, during this same period, age-adjusted prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) has increased in almost all subgroups. “The increase in osteoarthritis with age is a consequence of cumulative exposure to risk factors and biological changes such as oxidative damage, thinning of cartilage or muscle weakness,” said JuYoung Park, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor at the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work at Florida Atlantic University.

Other notable findings1 from the study included:

  • The prevalence of arthritis grew from 22.7 percent during the span of 2010 to 2012 to 26.3 percent during the span of 2013 to 2014.
  • Although obesity has been recognized as a risk factor for arthritis, the prevalence of obese people with all types of arthritis has decreased significantly.
  • The increase in OA prevalence was significant in both men and women; in non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics; and in people with high socioeconomic status.
  • The decrease in prevalence of RA was more pronounced in men, non-Hispanic blacks, and participants with low income or those who were obese.
  • Hispanic and non-Hispanic blacks were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have arthritis (researchers surmise that this is possibly attributed to a lack of adequate health care for a proper diagnosis in this population group).
  • Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics were found more likely than non-Hispanic whites to use self-care or alternative/complementary medicine and are less likely to receive traditional medical care.
  • OA was more common in older white women, seemingly due to age-related degeneration and hormonal changes, such as lower estrogen levels.

“Given the health and economic burden of arthritis, understanding prevalence trends is of significant public health interest,” Dr. Park said. “Developing cost-saving and effective treatments are necessary to minimize arthritis symptoms, maximize functional capacity, reduce disability and moreover, improve the quality of life for the more than 350 million people worldwide who are affected by arthritis.”

Last updated on: May 1, 2018
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