Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Osteoarthritis, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 04 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Osteoarthritis. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 August 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoarthritis
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Osteoarthritis [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020 [cited 2023 Feb. 4]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoarthritis
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2020, Osteoarthritis, viewed 4 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/osteoarthritis
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Osteoarthritis can have a profound impact on every aspect of a person's life. Ongoing pain, physical limitations and depression can affect an individual's ability to engage in social, community and occupational activities (Briggs et al. 2016). In Australia, osteoarthritis accounted for 19% of the total burden of disease due to musculoskeletal conditions in 2015 (AIHW 2019a).
According to the ABS 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS) people aged 45 and over with osteoarthritis are less likely to perceive their health as excellent or very good compared with people without osteoarthritis. People with osteoarthritis were 2.1 times as likely to describe their health as poor (11%) compared with those without osteoarthritis (5.0%) (Figure 1).
Note: Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population.
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019 (Data table).
Osteoarthritis can have a profound impact on a person’s physical health, as joint pain and physical limitations are major symptoms of osteoarthritis. Older people with osteoarthritis can also be more prone to falls compared with those without osteoarthritis. This increased risk is due to a number of factors caused by osteoarthritis, such as decreased physical activity, joint instability, medication use and pain (Cooper et al. 2010).
In 2017–18, over half of people (58%) with osteoarthritis experienced ‘moderate’ to ‘very severe’ pain in the last 4 weeks. People with osteoarthritis were also 2.9 times as likely to have ‘very severe pain’ (4.9%) compared with those without the condition (1.7%) (Figure 2). In addition, almost half (48%) of people with osteoarthritis described their pain as having a ‘moderate’ to ‘extreme’ interference with their normal work during the last 4 weeks, compared with 22% in people without osteoarthritis.
(a) Bodily pain experienced in the 4 weeks prior to interview.
People with osteoarthritis commonly experience anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Pain, physical limitations, poor treatment outcomes and increased pharmacotherapy can impact a person’s mental health and, consequently, their quality of life (Sharma et al. 2016).
According to the NHS 2017–18, one in 5 (21%) Australian adults with osteoarthritis experienced high or very high levels of distress. This was 2 times as high as those without the condition (11%) (Figure 3).
(a) Psychological distress is measured using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), which involves 10 questions about negative emotional states experienced in the previous 4 weeks. The scores are grouped into Low: K10 score 10–15, Moderate: 16–21, High: 22–29, Very high: 30–50.
In 2015–16, osteoarthritis cost the Australian health system an estimated $3.5 billion, representing 28% of disease expenditure on musculoskeletal conditions and 3% of total disease expenditure (AIHW 2019b).
People with osteoarthritis often have other chronic conditions. Comorbidity is the term used when two or more health conditions occur at the same time. For this analysis, the selected comorbidities were reported:
According to the ABS NHS 2017–18, among people aged 45 and over with osteoarthritis:
Most chronic conditions are more common in older age groups. The average age of people with osteoarthritis is older than the average age of the general population, so people with osteoarthritis are more likely to have age-related comorbidities.
After adjusting for differences in the age structure of people with and without osteoarthritis, the rates of the selected comorbidities (excluding cancer) remained significantly higher for people with osteoarthritis compared with those without (Figure 4). There was no significant difference for cancer. It is important to note that regardless of the differences in age structures, having multiple chronic health problems is often associated with worse health outcomes (Parekh et al. 2011), in addition to a poorer quality of life (McDaid et al. 2013) and more complex clinical management and increased health costs.
The National Health Survey (NHS) uses three factors to determine whether or not a person is counted as having a particular condition: whether the condition is current, whether it is long term and whether it was medically diagnosed. The combination of these factors required for a person to count as having the condition varies according to the nature of the condition. For example, some conditions, such as diabetes and HSVD, once diagnosed, are seen to be lifelong. Even if a person no longer reports symptoms, they still count as having the condition. While other conditions, such as depression, asthma, cancer or back problems, can be lifelong, episodic or in complete remission.
Most conditions do not need the respondent to have been diagnosed by a doctor or nurse. The respondent is counted if they said they have the condition. However, in cases where the respondent said they had diabetes or HSVD and that
Has the condition been diagnosed by a doctor or nurse?
no diagnosis required
not long term
Heart, stroke and vascular disease (HSVD)
Mental and behavioural conditions
Note: Please see the 2017–18 NHS User Guide for more information on the definitions of the conditions.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2018a. National Health Survey: First Results, 2017–18. ABS Cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2018b. National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2017–18. Viewed 1 May 2019.
ABS 2019. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017-18, detailed microdata, DataLab. ABS cat no. 4324.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Findings based on AIHW analysis of ABS microdata.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019a. Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015: Interactive data on disease burden. Australian Burden of Disease Cat. no. BOD 24. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019b. Disease expenditure in Australia. Cat. no. HWE 76. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 13 June 2019.
Briggs AM, Cross MJ, Hoy DG, Sànchez-Riera L, Blyth FM, Woolf AD et al. 2016. Musculoskeletal Health Conditions Represent a Global Threat to Healthy Aging: A Report for the 2015 World Health Organization World Report on Ageing and Health. Gerontologist 56: S243-S255.
Cooper RD, Kuh D & Hardy R 2010. Objectively measured physical capability levels and mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal 341: c4467.
McDaid O, Hanly MJ, Richardson K et al. 2013. The effect of multiple chronic conditions on self-rated health, disability and quality of life among the older populations of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland: a comparison of two nationally representative cross-sectional surveys. British Medical Journal Open 3:e002571. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002571.
Parekh AK, Goodman RA, Gordon C et al. 2011. Managing multiple chronic conditions: a strategic framework for improving health outcomes and quality of life. Public Health Reports 126:460–471.
Sharma A, Kudesia P, Shi Q & Gandhi R. 2016. Anxiety and depression in patients with osteoarthritis: impact and management challenges. Open Access Rheumatology: Research and Reviews, 8: 103–113.
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