Recent generations are experiencing higher rates of arthritis

A Singular Rise for Arthritis and Obesity.

A Canadian study spanning 18 years confirms that arthritis is more prevalent today, but also that people are increasingly being diagnosed at a younger age and with an increasingly higher BMI.

Caber Tossing & the Love of Haggis at the Calgary Highland Games.

Amy Reyes, Rheumatology Network March 8, 2017

“In comparing people at the same age, a higher proportion of people in each successive recent generation reported arthritis than their counterparts in earlier generations,” write the authors of a study that appears in the March 8 issue of Arthritis Care and Research.

The study included 8,817 participants at baseline in four study cohorts who had follow-up data, which included 1,598 participants from the World War II cohort, 2,208 from older baby boomers, 2,781 younger baby boomers, and 2,230 Generation X’ers.

In every cohort, the benefits of societal changes in increasing income, education and decreases in smoking rates could have potentially reduced the prevalence of arthritis, but these benefits were offset by the effect of a substantial rise in obesity which increased across all cohorts over 18 years.

“Had it not been for the increasing prevalence of obesity over time, the prevalence of arthritis might have declined in all cohorts. Our understanding of the impact of BMI on arthritis prevalence trends is likely to be an underestimate,” the authors wrote.

Participants who were severely obese were 2.5 times more likely to have arthritis than normal weight individuals and they reported arthritis a few years earlier than normal weight individuals, suggesting an earlier at onset. Non-smokers were less likely to report arthritis than current smokers.

The authors suggest that to get a handle on the prevalence of arthritis, physicians should recommend arthritis management programs to young and middle-aged adults.

“Although our results do not represent projections as such, extrapolation of the trajectories of arthritis with age and comparison of the trajectories across cohorts suggest that current projections of the prevalence of arthritis, which only take into account changes in the age structure of the population over time, may be too low for obese individuals,” the authors wrote.

Source Rheumatology Network via EurekAlert! AAAS


A population-based study of changes in arthritis prevalence and arthritis risk factors over time: Generational differences and the role of obesity, Badley E M, Canizares M, Perruccio AV. (2017), Arthritis Care & Research. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/acr.23213

  Further reading

The Impact of Arthritis in Canada: Today and over the next 30 years, Arthritis Alliance of Canada. October 27, 2011

Trends in Obesity and Arthritis Among Baby Boomers and Their Predecessors 1971–2002, Suzanne G Leveille PhD, Christina C Wee MD MPH, and Lisa I Iezzoni MD MSc. Am J Public Health. 2005 September; 95(9): 1607–1613. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2004.060418

Lifetime risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, Murphy L, Schwartz TA, Helmick CG, Renner JB, Tudor G, Koch G, Dragomir A, Kalsbeek WD, Luta G, Jordan JM. Arthritis Rheum. 2008 Sep 15;59(9):1207-13. doi: 10.1002/art.24021.

Annual Incidence of Knee Symptoms and Four Knee Osteoarthritis Outcomes in the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project, Murphy LB, Moss S, Do BT, Helmick CG, Schwartz TA, Barbour KE, Renner J, Kalsbeek W, Jordan JM. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2016 Jan;68(1):55-65. doi: 10.1002/acr.22641.

Also see
Who Gets Arthritis? Verywell
This is not your mother’s arthritis: Most cases found in younger Americans CNN Health
Life with Arthritis in Canada: A personal and public health challenge Public Health Agency of Canada

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