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Survey highlights true cost of arthritis

18 December 2012

Global Burden of Disease survey highlights true cost of arthritis

The World Health Organisation’s Global Burden of Disease survey highlights the true cost of arthritis, says Arthritis New Zealand’s Chief Executive Sandra Kirby. Ms Kirby was referring to a report published in The Lancet.

“The burden of musculo-skeletal conditions, most of which are arthritis, is now ranked as second highest health burden in the world, second only to cancer”.

“Musculo-skeletal conditions are prevalent in all countries and in all cultures and are the most common cause of long term pain and physical disability throughout the world, but poor prioritisation means these conditions are often overlooked.”

“These conditions need to be made a higher public health priority, given their tremendous cost to society. An investment in musculo-skeletal health is an investment in healthier and more productive society”, Ms Kirby concluded.

Global Burden of Disease analysis provides a comprehensive and comparable assessment of mortality and loss of health due to diseases, injuries and risk factors for all regions of the world. The overall burden of disease is assessed using the disability-adjusted life year (DALY), a time-based measure that combines years of life lost due to premature mortality and years of life lost due to time lived in states of less than full health.


Link to report:

Key facts:
• Musculoskeletal conditions include joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; back and neck pain; osteoporosis and fragility fractures; soft tissue rheumatism; injuries due to sports and in the workplace; and trauma commonly related to road traffic accidents
• They cause pain, physical disability and loss of personal and economic independence
• They affect millions of people of all ages in all cultures and in all countries
o Current estimates of people affected worldwide (Lancet 15 December 2012)
Back pain 632.045 million
Neck pain 332.049 million
OA knee 250.785 million
Other musculoskeletal conditions 560.978 million
• They are the second greatest cause of disability, as measured by years lived with disability (YLDs) worldwide and across most regions of the world (Lancet 15 December 2012)
o As a group musculoskeletal disorders cause 21•3% of all years lived with disability (YLDs) (this is second only to mental and behavioural disorders which account for 22.7% of YLDs)
o The main contributors are low back pain (83•1 million YLDs), neck pain (33•6 million YLDs), osteoarthritis (17•1 million YLDs) and the other musculoskeletal category. Osteoarthritis of the knee accounts for 83% of the osteoarthritis total.
o The leading cause of disability worldwide are low back pain contributing 10•7% of total YLDs (major depression contributes 8•1%).
• They have the fourth greatest impact on the health of the world population, considering both death and disability (DALYs) (Lancet 15 December 2012)
o Musculoskeletal disorders account 6•8% DALYs
o Low back pain accounts for nearly one half, neck pain one fifth, and osteoarthritis about 10%.
o Ranking of major causes of death and disability (% DALYs)
Cardiovascular and circulatory diseases 11•8%
All neoplasms 7•6%
Mental and behavioural disorders 7•4%
Musculoskeletal disorders 6.8%
• Disability due to musculoskeletal disorders is estimated to have increased by 45% from 1990 – 2010 (Lancet). Osteoarthritis is the fastest increasing major health condition. This relates to ageing of the population, increased obesity and lack of physical activity.
• Disability due to musculoskeletal conditions can be effectively prevented by currently available interventions, such as accident prevention, modern treatment of arthritis and injuries, and by rehabilitation.
• The growing burden can be controlled if priority and resources are given to ensure access to these interventions.

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