CDC Vital Signs Report

Arthritis Limits Daily Activities of 24 Million U.S. Adults

March 15, 2017 12:32 pm News Staff

More than 54 million adults in the United States -- or about one in four -- have arthritis, and almost 60 percent of these individuals are of working age (i.e., ages 18-64). What's worse is that more than 24 million adults with arthritis have activity limitations from their disease, with the percentage of these patients having grown from about 36 percent in 2002 to about 43 percent in 2014.

[CDC Vital Signs graph showing projected increase in arthritis prevalence through 2045]

That's according to a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report(www.cdc.gov) (MMWR) and an accompanying Vital Signs report(www.cdc.gov) released March 7. The reports were based on data from the CDC's 2013-2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Physical limitations these adults experience may be as simple as having difficulty holding a cup, lifting a grocery bag or walking to their car -- but they still hinder their ability to pursue everyday activities.

"Arthritis symptoms keep millions of Americans from going about their daily routines," said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., in a news release.(www.cdc.gov) "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."

Story highlights
  • More than 54 million adults in the United States -- or about one in four -- have arthritis, and almost 60 percent of these patients are of working age.
  • More than 24 million U.S. adults with arthritis have activity limitations from their disease, and the proportion of these patients has grown in recent years.
  • The CDC found that when patients with arthritis engage in physical activity, they can reduce their arthritis symptoms by as much as 40 percent.

The CDC found that when patients with arthritis engage in physical activity, they can reduce their arthritis symptoms by as much as 40 percent. However, many adults with arthritis aren't physically active, with about one-third reporting they don't engage in physical activity during leisure time.

The reports also noted that adults with arthritis can reduce their symptoms by participating in disease management education programs. But these programs are being underutilized, with just one in 10 patients signing up. According to the CDC, the best way to improve sign-up rates is for health care professionals to recommend these programs, because adults with arthritis are significantly more likely to attend an education program when their physician suggests they do so.

Breakdown of Study Findings

As previous NHIS survey analyses have found, women, adults who were unable to work, those in fair or poor health, and those with obesity, heart disease or diabetes had higher age-adjusted prevalences of both arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitations.

Although the prevalence of arthritis among adults who were unemployed was similar to that among employed adults, unemployed respondents had a much higher prevalence of arthritis-attributable activity limitations. According to the CDC, this finding suggests that disease-attributable activity limitations may play a role in these people's unemployment.

Also as in past analyses, arthritis prevalence was similar among blacks and whites, but the prevalence of arthritis-attributable activity limitations was higher among blacks. Findings in Hispanics were mixed, with a much lower prevalence of arthritis but a proportionately higher prevalence of arthritis-attributable activity limitations.

[Infographic - Arthritis effects can be reduced with physicial activity]

"Our findings suggest that the burden of arthritis is increasing and requires more widespread use of existing, underused evidence-based interventions," the MMWR report concluded. "Physical activity is a proven strategy for managing arthritis, with known benefits for the management of many other chronic conditions."

Large-scale Solutions

The report went on to say that efforts to improve the health of adults with arthritis, including those with comorbid chronic conditions, should include wider dissemination and implementation of evidence-based interventions.

"These interventions meet the unique needs of adults with arthritis and have been found to reduce pain and improve function, mood and confidence to manage health and quality of life," the report said.

Because the CDC views arthritis as a large and growing clinical and public health problem, the agency is funding arthritis programs in 12 states this year to disseminate community-based arthritis-appropriate evidence-based physical activity and self-management education interventions.

"It’s extremely important for primary care providers to encourage their patients with arthritis to be physically active," said CDC epidemiologist Kamil Barbour, Ph.D., in the news release. "It is just as important for them to motivate their patients to attend workshops to learn how to better manage their arthritis."

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New NIH Research Program Targets Health Disparity, Chronic Disease
(9/7/2016)

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