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New information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that about three quarters of people with arthritis are also affected by at least one other chronic condition.

About 3.3 million Australians-or 1 in every 7 people- reported having some form of arthritis in 2011-12. Of these, 2.4 million also had another chronic condition.

Two or more conditions occurring at the same time are referred to as 'comorbidities'.

'The chronic conditions examined in today's release include cardiovascular disease, back problems, mental health problems, asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer,' said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.

Cardiovascular disease was the most common comorbidity, occurring in 44% of people with arthritis. This was followed by back problems (29%), mental health problems (23%), asthma (14%) and diabetes (13%).

Younger people (aged 44 and under) with arthritis were about 4 times as likely to have diabetes, compared to people the same age in the general population. Their likelihood of having mental health problems, back problems and cardiovascular disease was about three times that of the general population, for each condition.

'In older people-45 years and over-chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was 1.7 times as likely in people with arthritis, compared to the general population.'

'Today's release also shows interesting differences in risk factors for chronic diseases among people with arthritis, compared to those who don't have arthritis,' Ms York said.

After adjusting for age, people with arthritis were more likely to be current smokers (23% compared with 16% without arthritis), physically inactive (21% compared with 18%) and obese (32% compared with 22%).

'Having multiple chronic health problems is often associated with worse health outcomes, a poorer quality of life, and more complex clinical management and increased health costs,' Ms York said.

'However, by studying comorbidities, there is great potential for integrating prevention and treatment, to keep people healthy for as long as possible.'

Today's release is available at http://www.aihw.gov.au/arthritis-and-its-comorbidities.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 14 July 2015

Further information: Ms Louise York, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1271 mob. 0418 271 395