The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have announced an increase in the United States of people with physician-diagnosed arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, fibromyalgia, and an unexpected, significant rise in arthritis-attributable activity limitation.
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In the CDC’s Oct. 13, 2010, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the agency summarized 2007–2009 data from the National Health Interview Survey, noting that 22.2% (49.9 million) of adults over age 18 had self-reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis and 9.4% (21.1 million or 42.4% of those with arthritis) had activity limitations. Compared with previous estimates, the number of adults with arthritis increased from 46.4 million during 2003–2005 to 49.9 million during 2007–2009, an increase of approximately 1 million adults per year. During the same period, the prevalence of arthritis-attributable activity limitation increased significantly from 8.8% (18.9 million persons) to 9.4% (21.1 million).
The prevalence of arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitation were reported to be particularly high among obese people. An age-adjusted 33.8% of obese women and 25.2% of obese men reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
According to report co-author Jennifer Hootman, PhD, an epidemiologist with the CDC Arthritis Program, “what is important for rheumatologists to know is that arthritis (49.9 million people) is second only to hypertension (51 million) as a common chronic disease. And, the number of people who report limitations with activity is increasing faster than we expected. We’re predicting 25 million people with activity limitations by 2030.”
Patience White, M.D., vice president for Public Health at the Arthritis Foundation (AF), says the new CDC data will be particularly helpful in lobbying efforts by the AF, ACR and others to convince Senate and House members—as well as federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Department of Health and Human Services—that arthritis is gaining in numbers and cost to society. “Without data, it’s hard to get action. This kind of report helps us make a case that we should turn more resources towards arthritis,” she says.
“Remember,” she points out, “that about 50% of all people with heart disease and diabetes also have arthritis, and it’s due to their arthritis that these people have a worse outcome.”
To announce the CDC report, Dr. Hootman and John Klippel, MD, president of the AF, conducted a satellite media tour. “I think the number of people with activity limitations really caught their attention,” Dr. Hootman says of the media outlets that attended the tour. The report was widely covered in the lay press.