Arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis across life stages profiled in new report

The prevalence, treatment and experiences of people affected by arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal conditions have been quantified in a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions across the life stages, looks at these conditions across various stages of life.

'Arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are common, affecting an estimated 6.1 million Australians (28% of the total population) in 2011-12. Our report looks more closely at the age profile of these conditions and their impact,' said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.

As expected, the prevalence of arthritis and osteoporosis are much more common at older ages. For example, less than 1% of children aged 0-15 have arthritis compared to 19% of people aged 35-64 and 51% of people aged 80 or over. Osteoporosis is diagnosed in 3% of people aged 35-64, 12% of people aged 65-79 and 21% of people aged 80 or over.

However, other musculoskeletal conditions (including disc disorders, back pain and a range of other conditions) affect people more consistently across life stages-increasing from 2% in children to 12% in young people, before settling to 14-19% in those aged 35 or over.

People of all ages with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are more likely to report limitations in performing core daily activities (particularly self-care and mobility) than the overall population, but the degree to which this is experienced varies among age groups.

'People aged 15-34 with these conditions are 6 times as likely to report limitations in daily activities compared with the general population of the same age (30% compared with 5%) and people aged 35-64 are 3 times as likely to report these limitations (42% compared with 14%),' Ms York said.

'People of working age are more likely to have employment restrictions as a result of these conditions.'

People of all ages with these conditions are also more likely to report high or very high psychological distress and to experience mental disorders than the general population.

In 2011-12, there were over 494,000 hospitalisations for people with a principal diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions, accounting for 5% of all hospitalisations. Hospitalisation rates increased with age, ranging from 309 per 100,000 children aged 0-15 to 5,539 per 100,000 people aged 80 or over.

Joint replacements may eventually be used as part of the treatment of osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions. There was a 37% rise in these procedures between 2002-03 and 2011-12, with  a particularly large increase in the rate of knee replacements in the 35-64 age group (75%), compared with a 45% rise in people aged 65-79 and a 33% rise in people aged 80 and over.

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, 16 May 2014

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