Arthritis Limiting Activity for Millions of Americans

Arthritis diagnoses and activity limitation a common problem in the US says new CDC study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) You want to hop on the bike, hit the tennis court or work on the car, but stiffness in the joints causes you to hold off. This may be a problem shared by millions of Americans, new research shows.

A new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the presence of arthritis in the US for the years 2010 to 2012.

The researchers found that over 52 million Americans had an arthritis diagnosis, and around 40 percent of them experienced limitation in activity due to the condition.

The term arthritis describes a number of different diseases affecting the joints, tissues surrounding the joints, and connective tissues. Often the conditions involve pain and stiffness in the joints and severity can vary widely. According to CDC, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the US.

"Ask your doctor about low impact exercise options."

In the new study, led by Kamil E. Barbour, PhD, of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the team of researchers wanted to take a closer look at the state of arthritis in America. To do so, they utilized data from the 2010 to 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Participants self-reported if a doctor diagnosed them with arthritis and if they had arthritis-attributable activity limitation. This limitation was determined if participants answered "yes" to the question, “Are you now limited in any way in any of your usual activities because of arthritis or joint symptoms?"

Dr. Barbour and team found that an estimated 52.5 million Americans aged 18 or older (22.7 percent of the adult population) had a diagnosed case of arthritis. The prevalence was higher among older adults. It was estimated that 49.7 percent of adults aged 65 or older had doctor-diagnosed arthritis. 

The prevalence of arthritis among people with other conditions was also higher than the general population. Dr. Barbour and team found that 49.0 percent of people with heart disease, 47.3 percent of people with diabetes, and 31.2 percent of obese people had doctor-diagnosed arthritis.

The researchers also found that 22.7 million people (9.8 percent of the population, or 43.2 percent of the people with arthritis) had activity limitation from arthritis. The study authors noted that the prevalence of activity limitation was higher than expected.

"Healthcare providers and public health practitioners can address both arthritis and other chronic conditions by prioritizing self-management education and appropriate physical activity as effective ways to improve health outcomes (e.g., reducing pain and increasing function and quality of life)," Dr. Barbour and team wrote.

The article will be published November 8 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). No conflicts of interest were reported. 

Review Date: 
November 6, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013