Arthritis Reaches Staggering Numbers

Published Online: Thursday, July 1, 2004

In the first study to look at arthritis prevalence state by state, reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (May 14, 2004), researchers found that physician-diagnosed arthritis is only going to escalate as baby boomers age and as Americans get fatter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49 million American adults reported physician-diagnosed arthritis in 2001, and an additional 21 million reported chronic joint symptoms.

The study, which included 30 states, looked at the responses to questions about arthritis in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. In a random telephone survey, participants were asked, "Have you ever been told by a doctor or other health professional that you have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia?" Respondents who answered yes were considered to have physician-diagnosed arthritis.

The rate of physician-diagnosed arthritis ranged from 17.8% in Hawaii to 35.8% in Alabama. The median was 27.6%. Women and older individuals were more likely to have arthritis in all states. Furthermore, arthritis is costly. In 1997 (the last year for which numbers were available), the costs for the disease totaled $86.2 billion?1% of the US gross domestic product. The survey revealed that Wyoming had the lowest arthritis-related costs at $121 million, whereas California had the highest at $8.3 billion.

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