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J Rheumatol. 2002 Sep;29(9):1981-8.

Prevalence of arthritis: analysis of data from the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 1996-99.

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Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.



Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are a large and growing public health problem and constitute the most frequent cause of disability in the United States. Because many people with arthritis do not see a doctor for it, this study uses community surveys to estimate the prevalence of arthritis among adults and to identify subgroups with high prevalence rates of arthritis.


We used data from a cross sectional random digit telephone survey (the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) of noninstitutionalized adults aged 18 years or older conducted from 1996 through 1999. Estimates of self-reported arthritis, defined as chronic joint symptoms or doctor diagnosed arthritis, were derived from data in 15 states and Puerto Rico, all of which used an optional arthritis survey module for one or more years from 1996 through 1999.


After adjusting for age, we found that arthritis was more common among several groups not recognized consistently in previous studies to have high prevalence rates of arthritis: separated and divorced people, those out of work or unable to work, and current and former smokers. It was also more common among several previously recognized groups with high prevalence rates of arthritis: older people, women, people with low education, people with low household incomes, physically inactive people, and overweight and obese people.


Because appropriate management can minimize the influence of arthritis, health care providers should ask patients in high risk groups about arthritis symptoms. In addition, clinical and public health interventions may be targeted toward those subgroups with high prevalence rates of arthritis to reduce the disability from arthritis and improve their health related quality of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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