Osteoarthritis affects 1.3 million Australians

Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic joint disease-almost 7% of the Australian population has it-according to a new report launched this morning at the Bone and Joint Decade Patient Advocacy Meeting on the Gold Coast.

The report, A picture of osteoarthritis in Australia, produced jointly by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the Department of Health and Ageing, and Arthritis Australia, provides key information about the disease, including how it develops, its symptoms, its impact overall, and how it can be managed and prevented.

'Osteoarthritis can make it difficult to perform the activities needed for daily living' said Dr Vanessa Prescott, author of the report.

Pain, stiffness and mobility limitations, often described in that order, are major characteristics of osteoarthritis. It can restrict participation in employment and social life.

Osteoarthritis is one of the major causes of disability in older age groups. It may also lead to fatigue, depression and psychological distress.

'Physical therapy, keeping active and taking medication when necessary can help to reduce symptoms, improve and maintain mobility and optimize quality of life,' said Dr Kuldeep Bhatia, Head of the of the AIHW National Centre for Monitoring Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions. Further management options include home modifications, surgery, and weight loss in those who are overweight.

Family members are the main providers of help or informal care for people with osteoarthritis. The report shows that a large proportion of carers of people with arthritis-associated disability spend more than 40 hours a week caring. A large majority (68%) have been providing care for more than 10 years.

Direct health expenditure on osteoarthritis is more than 2.3% of the total allocated health expenditure in Australia, with joint replacement surgery accounting for a large portion of this spending.

Some key facts about osteoarthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of disability in Australia.
  • The main symptoms of the disease are pain, stiffness and reduced mobility.
  • The most commonly affected joints are the hips, knees, spine and hands.
  • Osteoarthritis is common in older age groups, and affects females more than males.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding joint injury and repetitive joint-loading tasks can help to reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

Arthritis Australia provides a range of management and support services for people living with osteoarthritis. For more details 1800 011 041.

12 October 2007

Further information: Dr Kuldeep Bhatia, AIHW 02 6244 1144, mob. 0417 880 300

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.