Theis KA, Helmick CG, Hootman JM. Arthritis burden and impact are greater among U.S.women than men: Intervention opportunities. J Women Health 2007;16:441-53.
Arthritis affects an estimated 46.4 million adults in the, of whom 61 percent (28.3 million) are women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently analyzed data to better understand the overall impact of arthritis as a public health problem and, specifically, how men and women are affected differently.
What Problem Was Studied?
Arthritis causes disability, and women are disproportionately affected by arthritis and by the related disability. As stated in the article’s introduction, “Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state-based arthritis programs strive to prevent limitations, morbidity, mortality, and disabilities among those with arthritis, reviewing the arthritis burden and impact on women compared with men will aid in increasing awareness of the problems associated with arthritis.”
What Was Done in the Study?
Answers from various national and state-wide health surveys were interpreted, analyzed and summarized. These surveys include the National Health Interview Survey, Arthritis Conditions Health Effects Survey, Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System, National Hospital Discharge Survey, National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.
What Were the Study Results?
The CDC epidemiologists determined that 21.6 percent (46.4 million) of US adults report having doctor-diagnosed arthritis. The age-adjusted prevalence in women is significantly higher than in men (24.4 percent versus 18.1 percent). Approximately 1 million hospitalizations occurred in 2003 for which arthritis was the primary diagnosis. Nearly 60 percent of these were for women. Furthermore, an estimated 43 million visits to physicians’ offices and outpatient clinics were made in one year with arthritis as the primary diagnosis. Women accounted for 64 percent of those visits.
Medical expenditures and earnings losses attributable to arthritis totaled $128 billion in 2003. The average annual cost per person was higher for men than women ($2206 versus $1454). However, these cost estimates do not reflect unpaid work (such as housework, child care, etc.), the bulk of which has traditionally been performed by women.
Of people with a disability, 22.4 percent of women and 11 percent of men identify arthritis or rheumatism as the main cause of their disability. More than 10 percent of adult women in the U.S., as compared with 7 percent of men, report activity limitation due to arthritis. Among adults with arthritis, 39 percent of women and 36.6 percent of men report activity limitation due to their arthritis. Among adults with arthritis, about 33 percent of women and about 23 percent of men report frequent anxiety or depression.
What Does this Mean for People With Arthritis?
According to the study authors, untreated or inadequately managed arthritis can limit physical function, the ability to engage in life activities, to work and to manage other chronic conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital for a person with arthritis symptoms. The authors go on to state, “For those with arthritis, quality of life can be improved and pain and disability decreased and delayed through participation in arthritis self-management, appropriate physical activity, and weight management.”