Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions among Australia’s most costly diseases

Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are Australia's fourth most expensive group of diseases, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Health-care expenditure for arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions 2008-09, shows that in 2008-09, spending on these diseases totalled $5,690 million, accounting for 9% of total health-care spending.

'Osteoarthritis accounted for 29%-or $1,637 million-of spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions,' said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.

This was followed by back problems (21% or $1,177 million), rheumatoid arthritis (6% or $355 million) and osteoporosis (5% or $306 million).

More than half of spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions was on hospital admitted patient services ($3,091 million), followed by 30% on out-of-hospital medical expenses ($1,677 million) and 16% on prescription pharmaceuticals ($922 million).

'Patterns of spending across health-care sectors varied significantly among different musculoskeletal conditions,' Ms York said.

'For example, most spending for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis was on pharmaceuticals (77% and 63% respectively), while for osteoarthritis, most was spent on admitted patient hospital services (77%) such as joint replacement surgery and arthroscopies.'

Overall spending on these conditions also varied by age, and was highest for people in the 65-74 age group ($1,245 million).

'However, spending per person was actually highest for people aged 75-84, at an average of $1,007 per person.'

Overall, spending was higher for females than males, averaging $301 for females compared with $229 for males.

From 2000-01 to 2008-09, total health system spending on arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions rose by 67%. This compares with a total rise of 52% for spending on all chronic diseases. Over the same period, the proportion of total expenditure on diseases spent on musculoskeletal conditions remained stable, at around 9%.

'About 6.1 million people (28% of the total population) were affected by musculoskeletal conditions in 2011-12,' Ms York said.

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, 15 August 2014

Further information: Ms Louise York, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1271 mob. 0407 915 851