Serving Your Country with Arthritis

Osteoarthritis more common among military personnel

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) How do you get to know a disease? Well, first you have to find out who is getting the disease. That is what researchers recently set out to do with regards to arthritis.

A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism shows that osteoarthritis is much more common among people in the military than in people from similar age groups. The difference in arthritis rates between military personnel and the general population was even bigger in older populations.

"Arthritis is more common in the military."

Normally, people think of arthritis as a disease that mainly affects older people. However, some recent reports suggest that the majority of people with the disease are younger than 65.

According to Kenneth Cameron, Ph.D., A.T.C., Director of Orthopedic Research at Keller Army Hospital and one of the study's authors, not much is known about how common arthritis is in younger and physically active populations. That's why the researchers studied people in the military.

The military population is a great opportunity to look at arthritis in a young and active population that has to do repetitive joint movements on a regular basis, says Cameron.

From their study, Cameron and colleagues found that the rate of arthritis in active duty U.S. service members was 7.86 per 1,000 person-years.

After looking at different groups within the military, the researchers found that junior and senior enlisted service members and those who were in the Army had the highest rates of arthritis. Cameron and colleagues think that these groups are especially affected because they have to regularly do activities that call for lots of knee and hip bending.

These service members are often put through demanding physical activity in their jobs on a regular basis. This puts them at a higher risk for joint injuries that have been shown to increase the risk for arthritis.

Women had a 20 percent higher rate of arthritis than men. The rate of arthritis among service members aged 40 years and older was 19 times higher than the rate among military personnel 20 years of age or younger.

Black service members were 15 percent more likely than white service members to be diagnosed with arthritis. Black service members were also 26 percent more likely than other races (Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and other racial groups) to be diagnosed with arthritis.

White military personnel had an arthritis rate that was 10 percent higher than that of personnel in other racial groups.

To come to these findings, the researchers went through records in the Defense Medical Surveillance System. They found a total of 108,266 cases of osteoarthritis between 1999 and 2008.

Cameron says that more research is needed to understand how arthritis caused by traumatic injury affects the military population.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 29, 2011
Last Updated:
July 1, 2011