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Rheumatic conditions are typically characterized by pain, aching, stiffness and swelling in and around one or more joints. The symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly. Certain rheumatic conditions can also involve the immune system and various internal organs of the body.6
Some forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can affect multiple organs and cause widespread symptoms.
Arthritis is more common among adults aged 65 years or older, but people of all ages (including children) can be affected.
Prevalence of arthritis
There are 52.5 million adults in the US, equating to 22.7% of the population, reported to have a form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia.1
With people living longer in the US, the prevalence of doctor-diagnosed arthritis is expected to increase. It has been estimated that by the year 2030, 67 million, 25% of the projected total adult population aged 18 years and older, will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
Arthritis has a significantly higher age-adjusted prevalence in women (23.9%) than men (18.6%), with the prevalence increasing with age and higher among women than men in every age group. According to the CDC, 60% of people with arthritis are women, and most forms of arthritis are more common in women, with the exception of gout, which is more common in men.
An estimated 294,000 children under the age of 18 have some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition; this represents approximately 1 in every 250 children in the US.4
Impact of arthritis
Arthritis has a significant impact on individuals, for example:1
Almost 43.2% (22.7 million) of adults with arthritis report limitations in their usual activities
40% report that it is “very difficult” or they “cannot do” at least 1 of 9 important daily functional activities
Almost 8 million adults who report an activity limitation due to arthritis also report severe limitation in their ability to stoop, bend, or kneel, and 6 million cannot walk 0.25 miles
31% (8.3 million) of working age adults with arthritis report limitations in work.
Impairment in the ability of people with arthritis to perform essential daily tasks may interfere with their work, their sense of purpose in their community, or the care they can provide for their family.
Around 18% of total disabilities are caused by arthritis or rheumatism, making it the most common cause of disability in the US.
Arthritis has a strong association with major depression, with an attributable risk of 18.1% according to the CDC. This is thought to be most likely caused by the limitations arthritis can place on function and enjoyment of life. Around 6.6% of adults with arthritis report severe psychological distress.51
According to the CDC, the prevalence of arthritis increases with body mass index (BMI): almost 16% of adults who are under/normal weight have arthritis; almost 23% of overweight adults have arthritis; and almost 31% of obese adults have arthritis.5
Arthritis can place limitations on everyday activities. Having a higher BMI is associated with an increase in activity limitations related to arthritis, with such limits reported by:2
38.2% of people who are under/normal weight
37.2% of people who are overweight
44.8% of people who are obese.
Arthritis and exercise
Physical activity and exercise have been shown to benefit people with arthritis by improving pain, function and mental health. However, around 24% of adults with arthritis report being physically inactive compared with 18.6% of adults without arthritis.2
By partaking in low levels of exercise, individuals with arthritis face placing themselves at risk of conditions associated with lack of activity such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and functional limitations.