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 have a form of arthritis

Almost 1 in 3 (29%) of Australians had a musculoskeletal condition in 2017–18, around 7.0 million people. Arthritis — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ‘other type and unknown’ — affects an estimated 3.6 million (15%) Australians, based on self-reported data from the ABS National Health Survey 2017–18 [2]. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common forms of arthritis (Figure 1):

  • osteoarthritis is a chronic condition characterised by the deterioration of the cartilage that overlies the ends of bones in joints. Approximately 2.2 million Australians (9.0%) have osteoarthritis, affecting 12% of females and 6.8% of males [2] in 2017–18.
  • rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Approximately 458,000 Australians (1.9%) have rheumatoid arthritis, affecting 2.3% of females and 1.5% of males [2] in 2017–18.

Figure 1: Prevalence of self-reported arthritis in Australia, by arthritis type and sex, 2017–18

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%25) compared with males (7%25, 1.5%25 and 4%25 respectively).

Note: Refers to people who self-reported that they were diagnosed by a doctor or nurse as having arthritis (current and long term) and also people who self-reported having arthritis.

Source: ABS 2018 [2] (Data table).


  1. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2018. Australia’s health 2018. Australia’s health series no. 16. Cat. no. AUS 221. Canberra: AIHW.

  2. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018. National Health Survey: First Results, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.