Arthritis

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.

How common is arthritis?

Almost 1 in 3 (29%) of Australians had a musculoskeletal condition in 2017–18, an estimated 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 (ABS 2018). 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 (9.3%) have osteoarthritis, affecting 12% of females and 6.8% of males (ABS 2018) in 2017–18.
  • rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Approximately 456,000 Australians (1.9%) have rheumatoid arthritis, affecting 2.3% of females and 1.5% of males (ABS 2018) 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 (Data table).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

According to self-reported data from the ABS 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), the prevalence of arthritis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 11%, affecting about 85,600 people —including about 8,800 who live in remote areas (5.9% of the remote Indigenous population).

After adjusting for age, more females (19%) were affected by the condition than males (13%), and the proportion of Indigenous Australians with arthritis (17%) was slightly higher than that for non-Indigenous Australians (13%) (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Prevalence of arthritis by Indigenous status, 2018-19

This vertical bar chart compares the age-adjusted percentage of self-reported arthritis among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by sex. Among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, 19.2%25 of females and 13.4%25 of males are affected (and overall 16.5%25 of the total Indigenous population), while in non-Indigenous Australians 10.9%25 of males, 15.4%25 of females and 13.2%25 of the total population are affected (Figure 2).

Note: Age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.

Source: ABS 2019 (Data table).