Arthritis is an umbrella term for a wide range of inflammatory conditions affecting the bones, muscles and joints. This often results in pain, stiffness, swelling and redness in affected joints. Age, overweight and obesity, injury and genetic factors increase the risk of developing arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout are common types of arthritis [1].

How common is arthritis?

1 in 7 Australians reported having a form of arthritis

Arthritis — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ‘other type and unknown’ — affects around 3.5 million (15%) Australians, based on self-reported estimates [2]. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis:

  • osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterised by the deterioration of the cartilage that overlies the ends of bones in joints. Approximately 2.1 million Australians (9.0%) reported having osteoarthritis, affecting 12% of males and 6.4% of males [2] in 2014–15.
  • rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Approximately 405,900 Australians (1.8%) reported having rheumatoid arthritis, affecting 2% of females and 1.6% of males [2] in 2014–15.

Figure 1: Prevalence of arthritis in Australia, by arthritis type and sex, 2014–15

This vertical bar chart compares the percentage of self-reported osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ‘other type and unknown’, by sex. Females had higher rates of osteoarthritis (12%25), rheumatoid arthritis (2.0%25) and ‘other type and unknown’ (5.7%25) compared to males (6.4%25, 1.6%25 and 5.0%25 respectively).

Source: ABS 2015 [2] (Data table).


  1. AIHW 2016. Australia's health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. ABS 2015. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.